I am having difficulty deciphering between campaign promises and stupid. President Trump crossed that fine line last week when in a sudden turn of action decided to withdraw our troops from Syria. This decision is beyond stupid, it is arrogantly criminal. The Kurds who we were supporting, supported us, the United States, willingly. From the early days of the War on Terror the Kurds stood side by side our soldiers fighting our enemies. They quietly helped in Iraq against the Taliban and pro-Hussein factions, and later died to rid the region of ISIS. Our soldiers were not only willing to fight with these warriors, but happy to have them on our side. That has all changed.
In a fit of something, President Trump in his too familiar unapologetic decision-making announced that he would order our troops to withdraw immediately from Syria, leaving the Kurds hanging out to dry. But the “stupid” does not end there. Knowing full well Turkey’s intentions to obliterate the Kurds, our President on behalf of us, betrayed those who fought and died for our cause. Premeditated disloyalty and integrity. If this does not bring bile to our throats, then our country and our integrity as a people is doomed. The great negotiator blew this one right out of his ass. Against all advice from respectable military strategists and minds like former General Mattis, our President decided that he knew better and did it anyway. Allegedly, the decision was made after one phone call with the other sweetheart, Turkish President, Erdogan. Where is a whistleblower when you need one?
Akin to the same mistake that former President Obama did when he withdrew American troops from Iraq, President Trump left a vacuum that will eventually be filled by similar, if not the same ISIS killers. Conservatives and Republicans eviscerated President Obama as incompetent, reckless, and inexperienced. I agreed on all terms. Well, we have come a full circle because moving our troops out (who by the way were not engaged in direct combat but on peace keeping and joint patrol missions), will achieve the same result with similar dire consequences in deaths, refugees, and destruction.
On Fox Business with Neil Cavuto, my good friend Col. Peter Mansoor (Ret), former executive officer to General Petraeus, and former Brigade Commander of the Ready First Combat Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Armor Division; was asked his opinion on the sudden withdrawal of American troops and its impact in the region. Col. Mansoor has firsthand experience in the region having led the Brigade to Iraq in 2003, and later assisted in the successful “surge” with General Petraeus. Author of several books on military campaigns in Iraq, Colonel Mansoor listed a number of concerns and probabilities that seem obvious to an intelligent military strategist and veteran commander, but oblivious to our president.
Kurds held ISIS detention facilities which they now obviously cannot maintain. The release of ISIS fighters is imminent. The void left by the US compelled the Kurds to find another ally or protector. Putin and Assad, the Laurel and Hardy of the region willingly obliged, giving Russia more control of the region. That leaves Turkey to deal with.
Turkey’s membership in NATO is imperative to the stabilization of the region. With the US pull out, Turkey’s attack on the Kurds, and the Kurds’ relationship with Russia and Syria complicates a NATO/Russian/European relationship. In fighting the Kurds, Turkey would inadvertently be fighting Russian and Syrian troops; embroiling NATO in a conflict it is not equipped to handle and most certainly unwilling to participate in. As thousands of refugees are already seeking shelter, their numbers are apt to increase as the fighting continues, complicating the current dire immigration situation in the EU, the destination of choice. No comfort to Europe which in the past ten years has absorbed its share of refugees and asylum seekers. As Col. Mansoor succinctly pointed out to Neil Cavuto; this was a move by an impulsive President who is known to “shoot from the hip”. He ignores the advice of those who know better and stands by his own self-declared conviction of a great alternative.
In the meantime, his “smart” move has taken our own troops by surprise. In the wake of an order that scrambled them on short notice, they have silently questioned the wisdom of the move and their president’s motives. Those recently interviewed anonymously said that the decision by their Commander in Chief has left them feeling disloyal to Kurdish comrades they had grown to like and respect. David Ignatius of the Washington Post Writers Group (Stars and Stripes, October 16, 2019) opined on the unsettling sentiment running high within the military and intelligence community that had supported the Kurds in Syria. One CIA operative described the sudden withdrawal as walking away from “people who shed blood for us”. Other soldiers feel anguish and shame in abandoning our only ally who stood fast and firm against ISIS. Throughout all this, the Kurds held their head up high and remained respectful and loyal to America.
The message that this sudden withdrawal gives to current and future “allies” is that it is foolish to put your trust in America. A painful distrust that will set us back years in building relationships we so sorely need in the Middle East. Even Israel’s Netanyahu raised an eyebrow or two keeping his dismay and disappointment low key. Israel already has a problem with Iran backed Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. It does not need Assad troops and Russian fighters on its doorstep.
Many Americans fail to understand that the US Military depends on local assistance when fighting campaigns. For the past 18 years, many Iraqis and Afghans have paid heavily for assisting America in the War on Terror . I personally heard stories from soldiers returning from Iraqi deployments about local “interpreters” who did more than just translate. They risked their lives and their families’ lives to help flush out insurgents, and inform on enemy activity that kept American soldiers safe. In return, many asked for asylum as protection for themselves and their families. A few managed to relocate to the US, but many were left behind at the mercy of those they had informed on. A few soldiers I knew paid large sums of money to get these Iraqis and Afghans out of their countries; mostly out of gratitude for saving their lives and because our government was dragging its feet in keeping its promises. Like the Kurds, they were willing to risk their lives for our cause but became dispensable when we moved out. This is not my America and it should not be yours either.
To add insult to injury, and to justify his move, President Trump disparaged the Kurds as “no angels”. A childish retort. He also threatened Turkey with sanctions. A feeble attempt at pretending to stand up to Turkey. It takes years for sanctions to impact an economy and even then all we can do is freeze bank assets. Turkey is not really an economic partner with the US. What is more serious is the presence of US military assets in Turkey; primarily Incirlik AFB, home to tactical nuclear weapons. The military is already thinking of moving the weapons out. According to the Stars and Stripes (October 16, 2019), Defense Secretary Esper warned that Turkey was “spinning out of the Western orbit”. Meaning, leaving nukes vulnerable to a crazy government is not such a good idea.
Our president needs a crash course in Middle East history. It was our withdrawal from Iraq and other regions that created the perfect breeding ground for ISIS, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaida factions respectively. Throughout the early and mid-2,000’s the Kurds helped our troops in North Iraq against the Taliban and their friends. Then as our troops left Iraq, they remained to fight ISIS. Now our government under the torrid political misconception of safety to American soldiers and US interests, reciprocated by abandoning them. The American soldiers pulling out of Syria are sickened by the blatant betrayal of the Kurds by our government. According to David Ignatius, 11,000 Kurds have died helping the US defeat ISIS. 24,000 others were wounded. To set them aside like yesterday’s lunch is below appalling, it is immoral. There is only one way to say this: Mr. President you did not only lose my respect, you lost my vote.
Conflict in Syria Escalates. Neil Cavuto. FoxBusiness.com https://www.msn.com/en-ca/money/news/were-going-to-see-a-regeneration-of-isis-former-executive-officer-to-general-petraeus/vi-AAILxgE
Ignatius. D. October 16, 2019. For GIs, betraying the Kurds is sickening. Stars and Stripes.
Vandiver, J. October 16, 2019. Report: US mulls removing nuclear weapons from Incirlik. Stars and Stripes.