Trump pulls troops from Northern Syria, resigns Kurds to confrontation with Turkish military

Cade Petrie, Staff Writer

Early last week, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria.

This decision comes as a shock to many around the world. The U.S. has supplied Syrian Kurds with weapons, military training and advisement for years as the Kurds aided in the fight against ISIS.

The House of Representatives voted 354-60 against the withdrawal. Though the national movement to significantly downgrade (if not entirely remove) US troops from the Middle East grows larger every day, many consider the President’s decision an abandonment of long-time U.S. allies in the region and ill–thought-out political move. 

Much of the shock is due to the close proximity of the Kurds (many of whom live in Syria) to the Turkish border. The Turks and the Kurds have a long history of resentment: the Kurds, the largest stateless ethnic group in the Middle East, desire their own state, and Turkey instead officially labeled them as terrorists. 

Vice President Mike Pence met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss a ceasefire between the Turks and the Kurds. An agreement was reached to cease fighting for five days, which came into effect last Wednesday morning. 

The brief peace talks have been criticized, however, as they call for Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Turkey’s declared 20-mile-wide “safe zone” on its border, essentially handing the Turks the funnel they need if they really were to evacuate the refugees in their country. 

Due to the Syrian civil war, Turkey had a massive influx of unwanted refugees. The previously “safe zone” which the Kurds occupied in Northern Syria is unprepared for a full-scale military assault, and Turkey moved immediately to create a path to funnel Syrians out of Turkey and back into Syria. 

This call to withdraw is a massive change in policy from the U.S.’s previous stance of assisting the Kurds, though the Pentagon has released a statement stating that they have not endorsed a Turkish military offensive over the border into Syria.

The Turks have agreed to a permanent ceasefire if the Kurds desist and pull back. Kurds have already asserted that Turkish forces have violated the ceasefire.

The United States has agreed to not impose further sanctions on Turkey and to remove those that were imposed several weeks ago. 

Nate Sirovatka, a third-year Westmont history major on the international track emphasizing in the Middle East, had a few words about Westmont’s duty to the Kurds. 

He stated that “we have a responsibility to pay attention to the suffering in the world, and, even if we can’t do anything about it, I think we have a responsibility to bear witness to the suffering of the world.” 

Additionally, as Americans who claim to value freedom and self-determination, which the Kurds have fought for for years, he finds it questionable to “abandon our allies who are in pursuit” of those same ideals.