A week after President Trump ordered US troops in northern Syria to pull back and allow Turkish forces to attack America’s Kurdish allies, the president has now ordered the approximately 1,000 American soldiers in the region to leave northern Syria altogether. The president’s decision to cut and run comes after numerous reports of Turkish atrocities against Kurdish fighters and civilians, the escape of hundreds of ISIS prisoners detained by the Kurds, and a Turkish artillery strike near a US Special Forces camp that was apparently targeted intentionally to intimidate the president.
On “Face The Nation” today, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, “We have American forces likely caught between two opposing, advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. I spoke with the President last night, after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria, which is where most of our forces are.”
Esper also said that reports that the Kurds were making a deal with the Russians were a factor in the president’s decision. Yesterday, CNN reported that Kurdish leaders were reacting to their abandonment by the United States by seeking protection from Russia.
"You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered," Kurdish Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi told Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, William Roebuck, on Thursday. "You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come and protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral.”
"I need to know if you are capable of protecting my people, of stopping these bombs falling on us or not. I need to know, because if you're not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region," Mazloum said.
Esper and other members of the Trump Administration say that the US has not abandoned the Kurds and that Turkey would have invaded even without Mr. Trump’s retreat earlier this week.
"We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria," Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. "We remain in close coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces who helped us destroy the physical caliphate of ISIS, but I will not place American service members in the middle of a longstanding conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, this is not why we are in Syria.” A week ago, there was no conflict between the Turks and Kurds in Syria.
President Trump tweeted this morning that the Administration was working with Congress to implement sanctions on Turkey, but the president has not made ending the war that his actions started a high priority. Mr. Trump played golf on both Saturday and Sunday.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tweeted on Sunday that the Trump Administration had not contacted him nor had he been notified of a congressional briefing regarding the “the unfolding events in Syria / Turkey / Saudi Arabia.”
Roy’s mention of Saudi Arabia refers to President Trump’s stated intention to deploy American forces to the Middle Eastern kingdom to help defend against another Iranian attack. At about the same time that the president was defending his abandonment of the Kurds in Syria by tweeting “The Endless Wars Must End,” he was also authorizing American entry into the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran with an additional 3,000 troops, more than twice as many as were deployed to Syria.
It isn’t clear why the president felt the need to abruptly remove American forces from the Syrian frontier, but it is clear that a situation that was stable and relatively peaceful last week has quickly become another “endless war.” It was not the deployment of American soldiers that caused the fighting to erupt in northern Syria, it was Trump’s decision to remove them.
While American soldiers in Syria kept the peace between Turkey and the Kurds, that was not their primary mission. The Americans were there to destroy ISIS. So, how is that going? Not too good. Mr. Trump’s foreign policy blunder directly threatens America as ISIS gets a “second lease on life” according to a US official.
It is also unclear why deploying Americans to Saudi Arabia is not fueling more “endless wars” but keeping them is Syria was. Maybe it’s because the Saudis have the money to pay for America’s friendship and aid and the Kurds don’t. Maybe it’s because the president’s friendships with dictators Erdogan and Putin trumped America’s alliance with the Kurds. Who really knows what has gone through the president’s mind over the past few weeks?
The only certainty is that Mr. Trump’s actions have destabilized the region and are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Many of those casualties are innocent people and many more of them trusted American honor and loyalty. It is difficult to see Donald Trump’s actions as anything other than a cynical betrayal resulting from a massively incompetent and incoherent foreign policy.
While his supporters champion Trump as a fighter, on the foreign policy front, he is anything but. The president’s record on international relations is one of appeasing dictators and betraying allies. His actions have handed Syria to the unholy trinity of Turkey, Russia, and ISIS.
An American Special Forces soldier summed up the entire situation on Wednesday, saying, “I am ashamed for the first time in my career. Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It's horrible.”
Donald Trump’s actions have made America ashamed again.
Originally published on The Resurgent