A retired special forces officer said President Donald Trump was correct to order the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.
After the order was issued earlier this month, Trump said he wanted to remove the United States from “endless wars.”
Joe Kent, whose wife, Shannon, a Navy cryptologist, was killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in northern Syria in January, said in an op-ed published this week that Trump’s willingness to leave the region only came after achieving the objective of decimating ISIS with the help of the Kurds.
Detractors who say America is abandoning the Kurds ignore key realities, Kent argued.
“First and foremost: the nature of our relationship with the Syrian Kurds. The US partnered with the Syrian Kurds to defeat ISIS’s territorial caliphate; the US air power controlled by skilled Special Operations Forces (SOF) saved the Kurds from being slaughtered by ISIS,” he wrote in the piece on CNN.
“The Kurds valiantly fought against ISIS not because we showed up and convinced them to, but because they had their backs to the wall and we saved them. Our interests intersected.”
“We have absolutely nothing to gain and don’t need anything from the wastelands of northeast Syria. This is not a strategically important location to the most powerful nation in the world,” he added later.
“This is another reality that we have to face as a nation: To stay the course in Syria means we keep Americans in a position where they can be used as strategic bargaining chips while hemorrhaging our resources until we eventually withdraw and the Kurds and Turks go back to fighting—all while the Kurds cut a deal with Assad,” he said.
The United States might as well leave today because the result wouldn’t change, Kent said. He said that was painful to admit knowing his wife lost her life in the fight and he spent years fighting for the United States.
While some soldiers have supported Trump’s decision, others have criticized the president.
Mark Giaconia, a 46-year-old former special forces soldier, told Reuters recently that he and other soldiers felt a bond with Kurdish soldiers they fought with in Iraq over 10 years ago.
“I trusted them with my life,” said Giaconia, who retired from the Army. “I fought with these guys and watched them die for us.”
He said the Trump administration decision was to “leave them hanging,” accusing the administration of “violat[ing] the trust” of the Kurds.
Other soldiers said the Kurds have been abandoned by the United States before, including after the 1991 Gulf War, which was often discussed among Kurds who fought alongside Americans recently.
“Even then, they were bringing up the 1991 betrayal of the Kurds. This idea of betraying the Kurds was something that was very, very front of mind,” an anonymous soldier still in the military said. “There was definitely some skepticism of our support of them long term.”