Is This Any Way to Treat a Loyal and Courageous Ally? (UPDATES)
The Turkish attack against the Kurdish fighters who assisted the U.S. in the war against ISIS and who lost more than ten thousand brave fighters in the process has started – blessed by the president of the United States. Read more here
Another very recently retired general has criticized Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds.
Four-star General Joseph Votel, in a stinging column at The Atlantic writes, Trump’s “policy abandonment threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS and will severely damage American credibility and reliability in any future fights where we need strong allies.”
General Votel served as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) from March 2016 to March 2019. As commander of CENTCOM, Votel oversaw military operations across the region, including the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He retired on March 28, 2019, five days after he witnessed the territorial collapse of the Islamic State in Syria.
The Kurdish people have been struggling for over a century for an independent Kurdish state. They are the fourth-largest indigenous ethnic group in the Middle East and “one of the largest ethnic groups in the world with no state of their own.”
The closest they have come thus far is an Iraqi Kurdistan.
It is not for a lack of trying. It is not for a lack of guts and bravery.
The Kurdish soldiers, the “peshmerga,” are some of the best and most fearsome fighters in the world.
They have convincingly demonstrated such, fighting courageously and decisively as the formidable backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), alongside U.S. and other allied troops in the war against ISIS
They have fearlessly helped the U.S. drive ISIS out of thousands of square miles of territory in north-eastern Syria and have established control of hundreds of miles of territory along the border with Turkey.
[The SDF] secured key victories in major Islamic State strongholds — the town of Manbij in 2016; the city of Raqqa, the self-declared Syrian capital of the Islamic State, in 2017; and, in 2019, the town of Baghouz, a conquest that U.S. military officials said marked the end of the Islamic State’s territorial rule.
But it has come at a high price to these brave fighters. One estimate is that such loyalty to the U.S. and to Trump’s mission to “annihilate ISIS” has cost the lives of more than 12,000 members of the SDF.
Only last year, during a news conference at the United Nations, Trump praised the Kurds as our partners: “We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” he said, and that many of them had “died for us.” Then he said, “I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people.”
But, on Monday, in a single phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump forgot, betrayed and abandoned the Kurds and dishonored those 12,000 brave fighters who gave their lives for an alliance and a cause they thought was sacred.
In the phone call, about which a National Security Council source said that Trump got “rolled” by Turkey and showed “no spine,” Trump said it was pulling troops out of northern Syria. Such a move essentially gives Turkey the green light to “launch a long-threatened offensive into the area that many worry could crush the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in the region.”
Of course, the Kurds feel betrayed.
In a statement, the SDF warned, “To disregard our partnership would also send a clear signal to all would-be partner forces of the United States that a U.S. alliance may not be trustworthy.”
Of course, these brave fighters feel angry.
When a U.S. general delivered the shameful news to the Kurdish leader of the SDF, known by the nom de guerre Mazlum Kobani, Mazlum responded angrily “’You are leaving us alone…’ and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack.”
Of course, diplomats — including Trump’s people — feel embarrassed and frustrated.
Brett McGurk, a former Trump envoy in the fight against ISIS , said Trump’s decision was an example of how Trump “leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”
McGurk tweeted, “Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,”
Of course, the military are flabbergasted.
Those who can speak openly, such as retired three-star General Michael Nagata who played a key role in the Pentagon’s early efforts to train and equip the SDF to fight ISIS, say the move will embolden ISIS, Russia, and Iran — and could end the extraction of intelligence from thousands of ISIS fighters held by Syrian rebels.
But how about those GOP leaders who have been so silent – even defensive or supportive — on other Trump outrages and excesses?
“A disgraceful betrayal…unnerving to its core…that will boost enemy regimes…[and]would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” say Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Pat Toomey and Mitch McConnell, respectively.