By Kyle Van Pelt
On Sunday, October 6, Donald Trump made the pivotal decision to order withdraw from northern Syria, initiating a cascade of events hurling lives into peril. All American soldiers in the region will move to safer areas in Syria, leaving behind their mission of maintaining peace between Kurdish fighters and Turkish soldiers. With the absence of American special forces, Turkey has already announced its plan to invade northern Syria.
Only about 100 Americans were actually present in northern Syria, but their technology and training advantages were enough to deter most violence outside of hunting ISIS fighters. As Turkish relations with NATO continues to deteriorate, partially due to Turkey buying missile stockpiles from Russia, Turkey has become much more audacious with its wishes. This most likely scared Trump into moving Americans out of the Turks’ way, as they fully intend to kill their longtime Kurdish enemies–the Kurds are suspected to be behind several terrorist attacks in Turkey. Trump’s action went directly against all strategic military advice he received on the situation.
For the past several years, both the Turks and Kurds have been allies in the fight against ISIS. Today a large Kurdish population inhabits Northern Syria, and holds over sixty thousand ISIS prisoners of war (POWs) who previously invaded Kurd territory: the Kurds suffered over ten thousand casualties regaining their homeland. If Turkey successfully captures northern Syria, Kurds will either flee or die. The fate of the Kurds’ prisoners would not be so certain; Turkey has little reason to kill the POWs and none to continue holding them. It is quite possible these former war criminals would be released to reinvigorate ISIS’s mangled military, drawing the U.S. deeper into Middle Eastern conflict.