President Donald Trump has come under angry criticism from US military veterans for abandoning Kurdish battlefield allies after greenlighting Turkey’s assault on the Kurds in northeastern Syria.
Turkish troops and aircraft launched their long-awaited assault into Syria Wednesday after Trump ordered US troops in the area pulled back, leaving the Kurds — whom Ankara calls a terror threat — fully exposed.
Former Middle East commander Joseph Votel has accused Trump of giving up longstanding allies who, as the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces, were crucial in the half-decade campaign to crush the Islamic State group.
“This policy abandonment threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS and will severely damage American credibility and reliability in any future fights where we need strong allies,” Votel, who retired earlier this year, wrote in The Atlantic.
“The SDF freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS. Throughout the fight, it sustained nearly 11,000 casualties,” he said.
By comparison, he noted, only six US troops and two American civilians were killed in that campaign.
Mark Hertling (pictured), the former commanding general of the US Army’s European operations, said Trump’s decision “presages an upcoming disaster for the US.”
“Kurds of the SDF — our former reliable partners in the fight against ISIS — are being attacked by a NATO ally, Turkey. The repercussions for the US and NATO will be long-lasting and detrimental to security for Europe and the world,” he said on Twitter.
The SDF took the lead in the major campaigns to dislodge Islamic State fighters from key cities in brutal sieges that they led.
Pentagon officials said they were better trained and focused to do the job compared to Turkish and Iraqi troops and other possible proxies in the war.
“When the Iraq army collapsed, the Kurds were the ones who took the full brunt of ISIS’ attack on civilization, not us, not the Turks,” said Ruben Gallego, an Iraq war veteran and Democratic congressman.