The Crisis in Syria

Christian Muisener ‘23

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The United States military is withdrawing over a thousand troops from Syria, as Turkish armed forces are quickly advancing into the war-torn region. Kurdish forces, abandoned by the U.S., have now allied themselves with Syria’s Russian-backed government, who had previously won a devastating civil war, killing 400,000 people. 

On October 9th, Turkey launched an assault on Kurdish forces, who have vigilantly helped the U.S. fight ISIS in the past. The Turkish armed forces bombed Syrian towns, artillery raining down while fighter jets streaked past. Earlier, on October 6th, President Donald Trump followed the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request to pull out American forces from Syria. 6 hours after the bombings, Turkish ground forces advanced on the Kurdish civilians.

A couple of days later, the Kurdish forces announced they were now going to ally themselves with the Russian-backed Syrian government. The Syrian government controls freedom of speech, association, and expression. There has been an intense civil war in Syria since 2011, leading to much conflict and the rise of ISIS, which the U.S. fought with the aid of Kurdish militant groups. The deal allowed for the Syrian military to go up to the northeast region of the country to counter the Turkish forces. Turkish forces advanced so quickly that they seized a key road, making the American withdrawal even more difficult.  The invasion has already killed many Kurdish people, leaving the Kurds feeling betrayed by the U.S. government. 

After the airstrikes, riots in a detainee camp allowed for more than 500 ISIS-associated prisoners to escape, creating further chaos and making matters worse.  ISIS has also taken this chaos as an opportunity to attack Syria, inciting more attacks of terror. Furthermore, U.S. bases were elevated and bombed by U.S. jets to keep anything from getting into Turkish hands.  

President Trump, going back on his agreement, wrote a letter to Erdogan telling him that  Turkey has to stop killing the Kurds, and to make peace. Politicians on both sides of the aisle were shocked by the president’s betrayal of the Kurds, condemning his actions. Republican senator Lindsey Graham has strongly opposed Trump’s actions, saying that he is going to hold the president accountable by working on a bill that would sanction the Turkish Army and Turkish President Erdogan’s personal finances. The Kurds are now in extreme danger because they are a people without a country to call home. With the U.S.’s help, the Kurds were able to claim a small part of Syria as a livable area. This displeased Turkey, not wanting to have an uprising of Kurdish people in Turkey, sent their armed forces to drive the Kurds out of Syria with President Trump’s consent. The soldiers that fought alongside Americans were now being massacred with the approval of the U.S. Thus, as a last resort, the Kurdish army sided with the Syrian government to protect themselves from annihilation.  

In recent news, on October 17th, Mike Pence announced that Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire, in exchange for allowing the Turkish military in at the northern border of Syria.  American politicians described this agreement as an end to the violence. On the other hand, Turkish politicians have announced that it was just a pause on the operation, and Turkey had gotten what they wanted. It was agreed that the safe zone will be controlled by the Turks.
Overall, Trump’s decision has serious implications for both the Kurdish people and Syria. In conjunction with the Turkish military attacks, there is another added complication with the ISIS terror attacks, possibly foreshadowing ISIS coming back stronger. The betrayal of the Kurds by the U.S. also wreaks havoc on world politics. With the Kurds allying themselves with the Russian-backed Syrian government, this gives Russia even more power in the region, making this whole fiasco even worse for the U.S.