Betrayal is a harsh word.
But there is nothing else that comes close to describing what President Donald Trump has done to our Kurdish allies in Syria – the people who actually did the heavy lifting to defeat ISIS there.
Our commander in chief – a title he has disgraced with this shameless decision – announced earlier this month that the U.S. was pulling its forces, numbering about 1,000, and who engaged in training and acted in an advisory capacity, out of northeast Syria. He said Americans were tired of having our military bogged down in “endless wars” – presumably thinking this would be a nice little political boost.
But those U.S. troops were a buffer, the equivalent of a thin blue line, that prevented Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan – who shares Trump’s tinpot dictator style – from sending his military into the area in what could be a massacre of Kurdish fighters. Yes, these are the same Kurdish fighters who suffered nearly 11,000 casualties in combat against ISIS – which Trump likes to claim he defeated – compared to six U.S. service members and two civilians who were killed in the anti-ISIS campaign.
Erdogan didn’t wait long after Trump gave him the go-ahead, pressing ahead with a military offensive in the vacuum left by the U.S. and justifying the attack because of the Kurdish ties to militants inside Turkey and the long desire to have an independent Kurdish homeland.
In addition to the dire situation faced by the Kurds, the Turkish invasion initially blessed by President Trump has caused a humanitarian crisis, with aid groups suspending their work because of shelling, road closures and other threats. A reported 160,000 people, including 70,000 children, have been displaced since the fighting escalated.
Trump has few supporters on this. Even some of his staunchest Senate Republican allies have been critical. As they should be. Our European allies are aghast, warning that the instability caused by the Turkish offensive could provide the Islamic State with a new toehold.
The Kurds, facing a life-or-death dilemma, are seeking to ally themselves with the Russians and forces still loyal to Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad. And don’t forget the Russians and Iranians are hand in glove here, and the Iranian goal is the destruction of Israel. This decision showing our willingness to throw a staunch ally like the Kurds to the wolves has to be disturbing to our allies in Tel Aviv.
Trump can’t admit a mistake. It’s not in his DNA. And Erdogan holds major cards, given the importance of Turkish bases to the U.S. and NATO. Thursday’s so-called cease-fire, announced by Vice President Mike Pence, puts all responsibility on the Kurds, who must dismantle their defensive fortifications and pull troops from the border to appease Turkey. Meanwhile the fighting continues. One senior U.S. official told CNN the deal “is essentially the U.S. validating what Turkey did, and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population.”
Trump, the guy who claims to be expert on the “Art of the Deal,” got taken to the cleaners here. It was the White House that released a statement saying that after a telephone call between Erdogan and Trump, Turkey would “soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and U.S. forces, “having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
Which, of course, gave Erdogan the green light.
This decision by Trump is a disaster on every front. It helps the Russians, it throws Syria into chaos, it could help rebirth ISIS.
And it sends a powerful message: Why would anyone help America in its fight against Islamist terror groups when we repay their sacrifice in blood with pure betrayal?
Donald Trump should be ashamed.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.