In early October, the Trump administration declared that they would be withdrawing troops from Northern Syria, all while chaos engulfed the region and Turkey launched airstrikes just two days after the President’s announcement. Those opposed to the president claim that this move was a strategic blunder, while his supporters claim that it was an effort to sustain peace and maintain U.S. interests.
Of course, no political situation is necessarily straightforward, and no one can predict the final outcome until the dust has settled. Until we reach that point, what can we understand about this crisis and what it means for the world?
The crisis in the Middle East is certainly of interest to the United States. The primary intention of our troops being in the region is to combat ISIS. But does pulling out of Syria and paving the way for Turkish forces help our interests? Most likely not. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, has not expressed even remote interest in fighting ISIS, and the fate of ISIS fighters in Kurdish custody still remains undetermined. While Erdogan’s invasion of Rojava has been stylized as a counterterrorism operation, very few have bought into this story. The Turkish president’s real goal is to demolish the Kurdish people, who have been self-governing since 2012.
With Turkey’s entrance, the Kurds had to look to Bashar al-Assad’s forces. This is not only a win for the Syrian dictator, but his backers in Russia and Iran as well. The U.S. obviously does not want ISIS to be reaping rewards, and the president has made moves to place sanctions on Turkey as talks over a $100 billion trade deal for steel exports to the U.S. have been called off. But does this really benefit the country’s interests? Not necessarily, especially if the sanctions on Turkey prove to do little to stop its invasion of Syria and the chaos that will follow.
The general buzz over this developing crisis is typically focused on America and American interests. However, America’s decisions as the leading world power have effects on people all across the globe. The biggest losers of this decision are the Kurds in Syria. While the Turkish government and ISIS are set up to benefit from this crisis, the Kurds will be the ones to pay a heavy price as they remain stateless, powerless and vulnerable.
The Kurds have expressed that they feel they have been left for slaughter. With the region already embroiled in a humanitarian crisis, it’s not that far fetched to believe that the situation might indeed take a horrible turn in terms of loss of human life. The lack of care and tact that was taken in this withdrawal is truly a shame. With Trump’s declaration that the U.S. never agreed to protect Syrian Kurd allies for the rest of their lives, various nations could take away the idea that the U.S. is not a faithful ally.
As Americans, the last thing we want is for our allies to lose faith in us. As people, the last thing we want is for this crisis to take even more lives. Regardless of whether or not you believe that the situation will spiral out of control, or will blow over and sort itself out, we can’t say that America’s withdrawal was well prepared.