Kurds Worry About US Withdrawal, Fear Turkish Invasion: Experts

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
October 8, 2019 Updated: October 9, 2019

A day after announcing that U.S. forces are in the process of withdrawing from Syria, President Donald Trump said on Oct. 8 that the United States has not abandoned Kurds that fought alongside the United States against ISIS and is providing them with military and economic support.

However, experts say the Kurds are worried about the U.S. withdrawal from the region because the Turks in the area cannot be trusted.

Trump’s message on Tuesday came after the White House announced on Monday that it would pull out U.S. forces from northern Syria and hand over responsibility for captured ISIS members to Turkey.

The announcement led to a hurricane of comments all over the media with politicians, thinktanks, and experts giving multiple analyses of what could happen if the U.S. withdraws at this time.

However, there’s one underlying thought on everyone’s worries and analyses—a Turkish invasion of Syria.

Experts Worry that Kurds will be Abandoned

The Carnegie Middle East Center reports that “for now, two U.S. outposts” in Tell Abyad and Ras al-‘Ain were pulled apart and “Turkey has timidly begun entering some border areas.”

Carnegie experts say the President made a similar announcement last year about withdrawing troops from Syria but it was never implemented, however this time it could be “more serious” because of “Trump’s domestic problems and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s need to act.

“The Turks seek to establish a safe zone in Syria in which they can resettle over a million of the Syrian refugees now in Turkey, whose presence is provoking domestic discontent.”

Dr. Joseph A. Kéchichian, Senior Fellow, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, describes the announcement of troop withdrawal as “ill-thought” and said the “Kurds trusted Washington and yet for the umpteenth time, they will be abandoned.”

He said the Kurds are dejected. “I would assume, but the Kurds take the long-term view that they must continue to fight for sovereignty.  Eventually, they will prevail, despite Western promises and Eastern nonchalance,” Kéchichian told The Epoch Times.

Fighters and veterans from the Kurdish women’s protection units (YPJ) and the people’s protection units (YPG) march in front of the UN headquarters in the northern Kurdish Syrian city of Qamishli during a protest against Turkish threats in the Kurdish region, on Oct. 8, 2019. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

Kanishkan Sathasivam, the Director of William H. Bates Center for Public & Global Affairs at Salem State University, Massachusetts, told the Epoch Times that Kurds have a cause to worry.

“Yes, the Kurds are justified in worrying about their safety because the Turks have repeatedly demonstrated, including during their incursion into Manbj in Syria in the past, that they will wantonly and indiscriminately kill Kurds, including people who are obviously civilians.

“But the Kurds are also justified in being very upset with us because we are supposed to be their friend, and here we are completely betraying them,” he said.

Trump: The US Has Not ‘Abandoned Kurds’

The President’s message on Tuesday reiterated what he said on Monday that U.S. forces are in the “process” of moving out of Syria. It described Kurds as “wonderful fighters” and Turkey as a “trading partner” and said the U.S. continues to support Kurds militarily and financially.

“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters. Likewise, our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and trading partner, has been very good.

“Turkey already has a large Kurdish population and fully understands that while we only had 50 soldiers remaining in that section of Syria, and they have been removed, any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency. We are helping the Kurds financially/weapons!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also talked about the possibility of Turkey potentially invading Syria in a message on Twitter on Monday.

“Great speaking with #UK Foreign Secretary @DominicRaab. We discussed our intentions to negotiate an ambitious future free trade agreement, ways to counter #Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East, and Turkey’s plans to potentially invade Syria,” said Pompeo. He, however, didn’t elaborate on what was actually discussed about the potential invasion.

President Donald Trump speaks after getting a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, on Oct. 7, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Trump, in another tweet on Tuesday, suggested that Turkey will not go against the wishes of the United States and that it is helping him save lives in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria.

“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact, they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet. They have also been good to deal with, helping me to save many lives at Idlib Province,” wrote Trump.

Idlib is the last province in northwest Syria held by Syria’s armed opposition and is currently under airstrikes.

However, Sathasivam said that he doesn’t believe that tweets are policies. “As far as I am concerned, tweets are not policy. We will have to wait and see what actual policy is implemented by the DoD with respect to the Kurds,” he said.

The Department of Defense said in a statement on Monday that it doesn’t support and will not be involved in any Turkish operation in northern Syria.

“We will work with our other NATO allies and Coalition partners to reiterate to Turkey the possible destabilizing consequences of potential actions to Turkey, the region, and beyond,” the DoD said.

The “spot analysis” by Carnegie further added to this pilling coagulate of worries when it seemingly elaborated on what the DoD described as “destabilizing consequences” of any Turkish actions.

“We must first see if the U.S. decision is serious and what the depth of a Turkish incursion will be. The reaction of the Syrian regime, but also that of Iran and Russia, will be essential.

“We should expect a war of attrition, especially if the PYD-YPG collaborates with the Assad regime, which will aim to create a quagmire for Turkey. Turkish-Kurdish fighting may also facilitate a return to some areas of the Islamic State, at least in the form of smaller cells,” it read.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya