Withdrawal From Syria Is Right, but We Mustn’t Abandon Kurds

December 31, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2019

Commentary

President Donald Trump recently decided to withdraw all U.S. military presence from the Syrian theater of operations. This has been reported by the media to have been both abrupt and widely criticized, neither of which is particularly true.

The most important criticism was said to come via the resignation of Secretary of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis.

Many of the critics come from the ranks of the Republicans, although the conservative GOP base that makes up the majority of the support for the president, as well as many that lean libertarian, has a much more positive perspective on the withdrawal. Many voted for Trump because of his libertarian stance on staying out of foreign adventures.

Long before being elected, candidate Trump was vocally and clearly against these sorts of U.S. military forays, certainly including the second Iraq War. No one should be particularly surprised by this decision, and there is nothing tricky taking place. The president has been very straightforward from the beginning, and pulling out of Syria is a clear continuation and implementation of his foreign policy.

Trump is the type of person who is comparatively easy to understand. He comes from the private sector, which, unlike the government sector, expects results. Trump clearly believes that action should be closely linked to the desired outcome. An action is used to obtain a specific goal, and if that action doesn’t get you closer to the goal, then you stop the action. This is exactly what led Trump to make the decision to pull out of Syria.

The U.S. military presence in Syria is a nebulous thing, with U.S. forces controlling a large but insignificant corner of Syria with no Syrian boots on the ground to hold the territory. We ultimately put in millions of dollars to train Syrian troops to fill that role and fight the ISIS terrorist group, and never put a significant number of combat-ready Syrian troops in the field.

Initially, there was even hope that building a U.S.-backed Syrian army would put pressure on Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign. Not only was there no significant progress on any of these goals, but the U.S. position in Syria also didn’t provide any particular advantage in negotiations, which is really the minimum gain that would make the effort worthwhile.

The Assad regime, with Russian backing, is firmly in control, and nothing we have been doing uniquely moves our interests forward. Trump made the correct decision based on the simple, straightforward facts.

However, there are three big problems with the decision to pull out of Syria, and those are the Kurds, the Kurds, and the Kurds.

What the United States is doing to the Kurds is a travesty. The Kurds have been loyal allies in both Syria and Iraq and have even held off the annihilation of small Christian villages by terrorists in regions they control. While the president made the correct decision, it’s not the right decision if we abandon the Kurds in Syria to the Turks.

The Turks are very clear that they classify the Kurds as terrorists and intend to kill them all. The solution here goes back to the aftermath of World War I, when Syria and Iraq were more or less randomly created largely by Great Britain and France, according to their own interests and with complete disregard to the local populations.

The nations of the world have been pushing back for decades, freeing countries colonized and controlled by the European powers. Now is the time to push back once again and recognize a free and independent Kurdistan. We would anger certain countries such as Turkey, in particular, but they are no longer the friends and allies they once were.

On the other hand, we would gain a long-term and loyal ally with an independent Kurdistan—and in a region where future problems are almost certainly guaranteed. For Trump, while the following quote has been attributed to many different people, I have selected Gen. George S. Patton: “Audacity, audacity, always audacity.”

Brad Johnson is a retired CIA senior operations officer and a former chief of station. He is president of Americans for Intelligence Reform.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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