We Cannot Afford to Abandon Our Kurdish Allies in Syria

I was stunned to learn of President Trump’s pledge to Turkish President Erdogan to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syria-Turkish border in northeast Syria. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from this region would give Turkey the green light to invade the Kurdish territory recently liberated from ISIS. This move would be catastrophic for our allies, the Kurds, who have fought side-by-side with the U.S. military in the fight against ISIS, on behalf of the free world.

Furthermore, this move would cause a massive humanitarian crisis and will likely lead to hostilities among the following parties: Turkey against the Kurds; Iran and Hezbollah against Israel; Syria’s dictator against Syrian civilians; as well as ISIS prison breaks and regrouping. This is a disaster in the making. No actor friendly to the United States will benefit from this policy decision.

If forced out, Kurds, Arabs, Yezidis, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities will have no place to go, as this is their ancestral homeland. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have fought bravely and at great cost to help defeat ISIS. Since 2014, more than 11,000 of such friendly forces have been killed and an additional 24,000 wounded.

As the situation unfolds, several possibilities are apparent. The SDF will relocate their resources to repel the Turkish invasion; leaving the more than 11,000 ISIS prisoners unguarded, likely to escape and once again threat our allies and interests. Additionally, Turkish-backed extremist proxies affiliated with al-Qaeda and elements of ISIS will engage in the fighting, further promoting extremism. If this occurs, the United States will once again be pulled into the region on a much larger scale to defeat the next iteration of a terrorist group, this time alone.

If the Kurds, Arabs, Yezidis, Christians, and other ethnic and religious groups making up SDF are driven out by Turkish forces, they will be replaced by some two million Syrian Arab refugees from other parts of Syria, currently displaced in Turkey. This change in demographics will trigger an insurgency in northeastern Syria and southern Turkey.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces is already being seen as a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies in the region and a gift to Iran, Russia, and Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad. Iran will also expand its footprint in Syria and gain access to more oil that is currently under Kurdish control, supported by the U.S. aerial reconnaissance teams.

Therefore, we kindly ask you to encourage the Trump Administration to reverse this policy. We also ask you to make statements, such as tweets, floor speeches, op-eds, TV appearances, and press releases in support of our Kurdish friends. We cannot afford to abandon our Kurdish allies in times of need. When we needed them, they fought valiantly. It is time to do our part.

Thank you for your support on this urgent and critical national security matter.

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