On Oct. 6, the Trump administration suddenly announced a complete reversal of US foreign policy by endorsing Turkey’s military action against American allies who literally led the fight to defeat the so-called Islamic State in the region. This hasty decision could very well lead to the mass genocide of our allies, and it must be condemned.
For the last few years, America’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State in northern Syria has relied on a coalition of over 60,000 local fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, who are largely Kurdish minorities. Neighboring Turkey, who views the US-backed SDF minority as terrorists because of its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was angered when America began supplying the SDF with weapons and special forces operators in 2014 as strategic support to defeat the Islamic State.
All the while, Turkey has pursued a so-called 20-mile “safe zone” into Syria where the SDF and Kurdish populations live. As part of a recent “security mechanism” agreement to appease the Turkish state, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) went so far as to convince the SDF to remove heavy weapons and defensive barriers along the Syria-Turkey border in exchange for the promise of continued American air and ground patrols to prevent a Turkish invasion.
And yet, remarkably, US President Donald Trump has now upended this promise and policy via a press statement: “Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.”
This is a complete betrayal of our Kurdish allies and American values. Trump absolutely knows the grave danger that Turkey poses to Kurds in Syria.
In January, at the G20 Summit, he told reporters that Turkey’s Erdogan “wanted to wipe out” the Kurds.
“He has a big problem with the Kurds, as everyone knows, and he had a 65,000-man army at the border, and he was going to wipe out the Kurds who helped us with ISIS, we took out the caliphate, we have 100 percent of the caliphate, and I called him, and I asked him not to do it,” Trump said.
“They are, I guess, natural enemies of his, or Turkey’s, and he hasn’t done it. They were lined up to go out and wipe out the people that we just defeated the ISIS caliphate with, and I said, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t do it.’ And he didn’t do it.”
Trump also promised to “devastate Turkey economically if they hit the Kurds.”
Likewise, Members of Congress have remained well aware of the dangers of abandoning our allies who helped defeat ISIS.
Last December, when the Trump administration announced a sudden withdrawal of US forces from Syria, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, tweeted: “As to the status of our Kurdish allies, the Administration has yet to tell the American people what happens to the Kurds – who fought so hard for us – when we leave. Is there a plan to protect our allies post-withdrawal? Need answers now.”
The sudden decision to depart Syria prompted then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resign and sent then-National Security Advisor John Bolton scrambling to negotiate with Turkey over ensuring the protection of our Kurdish allies.
On Monday, upon learning of Trump’s latest change in policy, Senator Graham tweeted: “I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria…if press reports are accurate, this is a disaster in the making.”
Graham is absolutely right.
We must condemn President Trump’s rash decision to suddenly abandon our Kurdish allies who have battled so bravely against our common enemy. Not only did the Kurdish SDF lead the fight to defeat ISIS, but we convinced them – on behalf of Turkey – to disarm and dismantle their military posts in exchange for security—a promise that Trump is now breaking. Beyond a breached agreement, it is a sacred betrayal of our honor.
Who will ever trust America again?
This reckless double-cross of one of our strongest strategic partners in the Middle East will cause everlasting damage to the reputation of the United States. It will jeopardize our alliances for decades to come and could cause the entire region to tailspin into chaos sparked off by the very Turkish military operations this White House just endorsed. Like the Kissinger betrayal in 1975, which set off repeated genocides against the Kurdish people, Trump’s decision is a stain that must be fervently opposed by all Americans.
America is a nation of principle, honor, and commitment. But abandoning our Kurdish allies in Syria is tantamount to leaving an American soldier behind to die alone on the battlefield. We should not tolerate it because it runs counter to everything our country stands for. As such, I call on every US citizen and sitting member of Congress to call out and pressure the Trump administration to reverse this serious betrayal. If anything, our national security depends on it.
Failing to honor agreements now with our friends may one day cause America to stand alone on the world stage. We cannot abandon our Kurdish allies.
Tyson Manker is an American lawyer, military veteran, and political advisor.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany