I am, with many others, against President Trump’s decision to pull US forces from Syria. First, I want to explain some of the recent geopolitical underpinnings that the Kurds had faced, then I will expand on why the Kurds rightly feel betrayed by Trump’s order to pull American forces from Syria, and finally conclude with why this situation should have been dealt with differently in order to accurately face the challenges IS forces pose to the Kurdish ethnic minority.
Who Are the Kurds? — Why Are They Significant as a US Ally?
It began as early as 2013 when the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) had targetted the Kurdish ethnic group in northern Syria in order to occupy three enclaves that were bordering their own territory.
Later in 2014, IS advanced on an area in northern Iraq that also forced Kurds in the area to engage in combat. The tables turned for the Kurds when in January 2015, Kurdish troops recaptured Kobane from IS forces. Led by the Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), along with US air support and strategic counsel, slowly regained control of the surrounding regions, covering thousands of kilometers of land. The last resisting IS force was located in the area of Bahouz, a village in Syria. In March 2019, however, this last force had been appropriately handled by the Kurdish-led SDF, resulting in the almost complete abolition of the jihadist caliphate in Syria.
Tensions seemed to be at bay, until October 2019.
What Did Trump do Wrong?
Trump surprised the world, especially the Kurds, by deciding to pull back approximately 1,000 American troops from the border between Syria and Turkey.
General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, commander of the SDF, claimed that this operation is an “existential threat” to Syria’s Kurds. The worry is that the Kurds, being an Indigenous group that had been denied the right to form a state in the past, will be victims of similar ethnic cleansing that the Rohingya had suffered in Bangladesh in recent years.
Trump, nonetheless, defends this order by claiming that the conflict between IS had been resolved. Many, however, insist that by pulling troops Trump had merely created space for another genocide.
How Should We Think of Trump’s Decision?
What should concern us in the West as we analyze this case of bad foreign policy is what this can potentially do to the alliances America has with other countries and resistance coups around the world.
The Kurds were essential in the attack on ISIS and have helped the Americans more than many would like to give them credit for. Add unto this the fact that it is arguably much less expensive to keep small forces of American troops around the world in an attempt to establish peace than to come in with NATO troops after genocidal dictators had killed hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
The US similarly has allocated troops in South Korea, Japan, and parts of Europe to prevent conflict from North Korea, China, and Russia.
If we were to compare the strategic importance and utility of these outposts, we would see that there really should be no reason to leave the Turkish border, especially with readily accessible knowledge of how many lives are at risk.
Financially speaking, holding troops in Syria is by no means a taxing or risky ordeal. In fact, within seven years, there were zero American casualties and comparatively minute resources spent in support of the Kurdish resistance. A long attempt at peace has been broken by a week of ill-informed foreign policy.
AND before you go…
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,