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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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OPINION: Abandoning the Kurds in Syria will be a foreign policy nightmare

Photo by Creative Commons

Syrian forces advance during a training event in the Dier ez-Zor province, Syria, Jan. 25, 2019. 

The Kurdish militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been one of the U.S.’s greatest allies in the Middle East.
However, ever since President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops from the region, Turkey has capitalized on America’s absence. Moreover, Turkey has mounted an offensive to create a buffer between them and the Kurds whom they see as terrorists. The Kurds are rightfully feeling abandoned, as we made promises to them to gain their support that we do not intend on keeping. Additionally, it is not just our former allies that are feeling miffed. American troops and GOP members alike have criticized Trump for his decision to pull out of Syria. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted 354-60 on a resolution to condemn the President’s actions. So today, it is important to analyze why so many Americans from both sides of the aisle are clamoring to attack Trump.
President Trump claims that “we quickly defeated 100 percent of the caliphate,” and this is one reason he has pulled soldiers. However, not only is this assertion false, the opposite is happening because of the reduction of soldiers in Syria. Approximately 11,000 captured ISIS fighters have a chance to escape and rebuild the caliphate as a result of Turkey’s pressure on the SDF. For example, during one Turkish airstrike, it was reported that 500 women affiliated with the Islamic State led a prison break and escaped. We should realize that our absence has created a scenario where terrorists can regroup and rebuild, undoing the counterterrorism efforts that have been ongoing since 2015. This way, our national security is at risk, since the Islamic State and its fighters are receiving a reprieve as our Kurdish allies have come under fire.
To compound the threat that the escaped fighters pose to U.S. security, the Islamic State’s media and outlets sympathetic to their cause have capitalized on America’s abandonment of the SDF. They are encouraging attacks to free fellow ISIS fighters from detainment camps. An independent intelligence group, SITE, has estimated that since the Turkish invasion, Islamic State propaganda outlets reported 27 attempted or successful attacks on the SDF. This number is up from an average of 10 attacks per week in the weeks preceding Turkey’s invasion. The escalating number of attacks disprove many of the White House’s claims that the caliphate is dead and the conflict in Syria is no longer our problem. We should be concerned because our absence has given ISIS sympathizers and forces a second wind to wage war on us and our allies.
Of course, Trump has also defended his decision to remove soldiers by arguing the “two most unhappy countries at this move are Russia and China.” Ironically, the President’s choice to reduce soldiers and abandon the SDF has created a power vacuum that Russia intends to fill. Our withdrawal has resulted in the Kurds losing their trust in U.S. forces, a sentiment that American soldiers share. Unfortunately, to fill the void that the U.S. has left, the Kurdish SDF soldiers have turned to Bashar al-Assad’s regime. They are now calling on the dictator to “protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty.” This development, on its own, would not pose an issue – the main problem is that Assad’s regime is a Russian proxy. Thus, Vladimir Putin has increased his influence in the region, making it more difficult for us to engage in future conflicts within the areas.
Our foreign policy is influenced by who sided with us in World War II. President Trump attempted to defend his decision to remove American soldiers in Syria by arguing the SDF did not help the U.S. in the Second World War. Trump’s rhetoric is blatantly false – the Kurds assisted Britain and the USSR in the war. Furthermore, if we based our military support on old alliances from the 1940s, Russia and China would be our best friends since both Stalin and Mao were members of the Allied Powers. Trump’s logic is especially ironic when you consider that Russia is benefiting most from U.S. withdrawal. Fifty-two  percent of Americans believe the Russians are the most significant military threat to America. At best, Trump’s defense is weak, and at worst, it’s hypocritical.
It is safe to say that all Trump has done by removing soldiers from Syria is cause America a lot more headaches. Pulling out has only resulted in giving a reprieve to one of the most dangerous terrorist  organizations and ceded influence to a hostile world power. Moving forward, Americans must ask how much power the President should have. In defiance of both military personnel and many politicians, Trump unilaterally removed U.S. assets from Syria, placing us the Kurds in our current predicament. We must choose whether one man should have the power to make disastrous military decisions with no discourse.

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