Opinion

Syria Might Be Lost—The Kurds Don’t Have to Be

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Posted: Dec 28, 2018 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Syria Might Be Lost—The Kurds Don’t Have to Be

President Trump made massive waves when he announced a complete withdrawal from Syria – on Twitter. From supporters, the Pentagon, and Democrats alike, there has been a tremendous amount of backlash. Putin, Assad, and Iran are licking their chops as they eye Kurdish territory undoubtedly. Kurdish leaders are frantic to persuade the U.S. to keep their soldiers in North Syria. 

President Trump declared victory over ISIS, in a tweet, which felt vaguely like Bush’s ill-fated “Mission Accomplished” banner as he declared victory in Iraq. Just a month ago, he was claiming ISIS had infiltrated the migrant caravan and now ISIS has been defeated, in his eyes… 

Of course, ISIS is far from defeated. The Pentagon estimates 30,000 militants still exist in Syria, albeit their physical territory is gone. The insurgency and their threat to the region is not. 

There are also very active cells in Bangladesh, Europe, the Philippines, Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and other nations around the globe. The threat they pose is still global and still very real. 

Generally, recent military interventions, in the Middle East specifically, have resulted in disaster. Our interventions in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan have created failed states that have incubated terrorism and subjected their populace to never-ending war. 

In Afghanistan and Iraq, state building projects shielded some of its citizenry from this and have picked up some of the pieces. For the U.S., it has felt like one step forward and two steps backward. 

The Taliban have re-gained pre-9/11 strength despite all the trillions spent and Afghani and American blood spilt to stop them. President Trump’s instinct on general military intervention and America’s weariness to such involvement is correct. 

However, this intervention is far different from Afghanistan and Iraq. Rather than prolonged wars that involve tens of thousands of American troops, trillions of dollars, and US leadership, this intervention required a measly 2,000 in mostly advisory roles, something we do in several other nations. This is an incredibly low investment that has been extremely effective. Without any significant ground forces, The American military has successfully guided Kurdish militias in the liberation of ISIS-held territories and the neutralization of tens of thousands of militants. 

There are interventions that are worthy of re-thinking such as Yemen and Afghanistan (Long articles could be written about each). Further investment into the Syria conflict would also be a bad idea as it would too easily plunge America into the thick of it. However, the present intervention (only 2,000 men) does not pose such a threat. 

The mere presence of our troops, a presence not marred by American casualties, has prevented Iran, Assad, and Turkey from sweeping through Kurdish territory. This has brought stability and help to a Western-friendly ethnic minority that has fought honorably for the dream of a pro-Western, independent Kurdistan. The Kurds have aided us time and again. 

To leave now would be to betray the Kurds, a faction that has been an incredibly deserving ally in a region where there are few and far between. Such a cold betrayal would also send a strong message to our allies and potential allies; America is untrustworthy. Already, Turkey has promised to ‘bury’ Kurdish forces the second American forces leave the region. Without the Kurds, any dream of a ‘good guy’ in Syria or any democratic state would die. 

President Trump fails to consider the gravity of a unilateral pull out and how it will make a bad situation worse. He also fails to consider how it will aid Iran and Russia, two nations bent on undermining American interests and the interests of her allies. 

He has made it clear how he feels about Iran. Iran, aided by its puppet Assad and its terrorist allies Hezbollahplans to connect itself through North Syria to Lebanon and the Mediterranean. With this new supply route, they will more easily be able to fund and arm Hezbollah and Hamas. This ‘super highway’ would be disastrous for the region and serve to actively attack Israel. 

Putin’s influence in the region would also be left unchecked, a danger America can ill-afford. They attacked a U.S. and Kurdish controlled base at the beginning of the year, after all. U.S. troops came under fire from hundreds of Russian mercenaries hired by the Kremlin. Attacks like this cannot be met in kind with a retreat. 

Pentagon officials and Trump’s national security team also do not support such a pullout. General Mattis, a man reluctant to involve himself any further in Syria, resigned in part because of this decision. The Kurds are useful allies that deserve American support. Especially when that support comes at such a low-cost to America. It would also cost America any influence in the region. A peace treaty is desperately needed to end the civil war and without American military involvement, we could not be a part of it. 

Leaving a peace deal to the likes of despots like Erdogan, Rouhani, Putin, and Assad is a mistake. There will be no peace favorable to the Syrian people unless someone from the Free World speaks for them. A peace in Syria would mean it would finally begin to heal, re-establish control of itself, end the Syrian migration crisis, and stop being a terror incubator. The West has a vested interest in Syrian stability. 

ISIS is far from defeated. The recent brutal murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco by ISIS fighters is proof of that. It will take time, resources, and patience to finish them off. It is also worth remembering the secondary objectives; keeping Iran and Russia in check and supporting the Kurds, an ally deserving of our protection. 

A complete pullout at this stage would be a retreat. It’s time to remember our steel and stand our ground. People are counting on it. The world is counting on it.