The Marine Corps has a saying, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” On Oct. 6, President Donald Trump made a mockery of that motto with his announcement he was withdrawing nearly 2,000 American troops serving in northern Syria. The president’s decision caught the military off guard — and stunned State Department and intelligence officials as well.
Trump’s statement came after he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about that NATO ally’s planned military offensive to remove Kurdish-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) near its border. Turkey claims the SDF fighters are terrorists. Apparently Trump agreed — nevermind that for the past two years, American troops have been serving alongside Kurdish fighters to prevent Turkish attacks.
As of this writing, early reports say Erdogan has agreed to a 120-hour cease-fire to allow the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurds time to withdraw. We hope that holds, for the SDF has been a staunch U.S. ally in defeating ISIS. In fact, that victory probably wouldn’t have happened without it.
As soon as the U.S. began its withdrawal from Syria early last week, violence erupted in the region. Kurdish fighters were left with few options other than seeking assistance from the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian regime.
Since the start of Turkey’s offensive on Oct. 9, reports say at least 750 ISIS affiliates have fled a displacement camp in northeast Syria, seeming to confirm fears that the pullout will precipitate the regrouping of the Islamic State caliphate. Trump should have known better. In 2011, the sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq led to ISIS’ rapid rise in the first place.
And now, according to the Military Times, as U.S. forces abruptly departed Syria, troops were forced to dump equipment and leave military bases intact. Videos posted by a Russian journalist (https://bit.ly/32kBz5k) show Russian troops entering one of those abandoned bases in Manbij, Syria.
Trump’s decision to withdraw our forces has been harshly criticized by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Military officials and analysts say the move seriously damages U.S. military relationships and its reputation worldwide with allies and enemies alike. The decision was morally wrong and militarily foolish.
— Robin Beres