SAN DIEGO. There are a lot of confusing, misleading reports regarding the erupting situation in Syria involving U.S. troops, Turkey, and Kurdish Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters. Turkey has now followed through with its offensive to militarily resettle Sunni Arab refugees into a contested border zone. This move draws opposition from the Kurd majority occupying the north-eastern Syrian territory. Arabs and Kurds are family-based cultures with similar customs. Some observers point to a dysfunctional and rapacious leadership in both sects as causing strife between them.
The Turkey, Kurdish Syria problem.
A statement from The Defense Post, October 1st, 2019,
“Syrian Kurdish leaders have said only Syrian refugees originally from northeast Syria and who have been screened for ties to terrorist groups may return.”
The Kurd YPG forces are the primary component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who defends their autonomous government against insurgencies like ISIS. It is feared Turkey’s incursion into northern Kurdish Syria could draw ISIS back in the region.
Military Times two days ago,
“SDF forces control a number of prisons and refugee camps housing tens of thousands of ISIS families and ISIS fighters [in Syria]…President Donald Trump has said Turkey will bear responsibility for maintaining those prisoners. A Trump administration official told reporters Monday that the U.S. had only moved a small handful of U.S. special operations forces out of the zone of Turkish operations in northern Syria, and that the U.S. was not conducting a full withdrawal from the country.”
According to Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy for the fight against ISIS,
“Turkey has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage 60k detainees in al Hol camp, which State and DoD IGs [inspector general] warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS.”
On the other hand, it’s reported that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames Western countries for deliberately refusing to share the burden of refugees, caused by insurgent wars. Effects of infusing massive refugees with Turkish citizens are unreported.
It’s another border war.
Apparently, the two countries disagree over the final depth of the border zone. Erdoğan has demanded some 30 km, which would encompass most majority-Kurdish population centers in Syria.
“The YPG has begun withdrawing from the border and destroying its fortifications, but Syrian Kurdish leadership has rejected what they see as Erdoğan’s plan to demographically re-engineer majority-Kurdish areas of northern Syria. They have also said their forces will not pull back from the border further than they have already agreed, which ranges between 5 and 14 km,” reports Defense Post.
The acrimony between the Kurds and Turkey is not new. Turkey considers YPG a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) accused of conducting a long insurgency against the government of Turkey.
Erdoğan says his patience has run out for U.S. efforts to create a buffer zone. Trump has signaled for Turkey to manage resettlement through NATO and without violence towards the Kurds. Turkey has not honored that request.
The past repeats itself.
The Department of Defense warned Turkey of the destabilizing consequences to Turkey, the entire region and beyond.
“Turkey has launched two previous incursions into northwest Syria, taking control of much of Idlib province with Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and the Kurdish enclave of Efrin in January 2018 under Operation Olive Branch,” says the Defense Post, adding,
“Turkey’s incursion into Efrin led to mass civilian displacement and United Nations accusations of possible war crimes, including looting, hostage-taking and torture, by Turkey-backed Islamist Syrian rebels.”
A flurry of new reports happens by the minute.
Already unrest at al Hol camp has begun with a Turkish shelling. ISIS militants escaped from a prison in Qamishli city. Families of the ISIS fighters are attacking security forces and trying to flee, as Kurdish forces are distracted by the Turkey offensive. Civilians are already displaced.
Bad media adds to the problem and endangers U.S. troops.
The Department of Defense announced its directive in a couple of tweets despite misleading media reports.
“The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey – as did the President – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria. The U.S. Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation”https://t.co/s3iolgyoeK @CommDigiNews @DeptofDefense @ChiefPentSpox
— Patriot Girl (@jeanneemckinney) October 7, 2019
Despite media misreporting,”Safe zone [for U.S. troops] in northern Syria is the best path forward to maintaining stability,” says @DeptofDefense. Official details here:https://t.co/zCTLvzIPwa@CENTCOM @POTUS @oirdcom @CommDigiNews
— Patriot Girl (@jeanneemckinney) October 8, 2019
Military leaders on the ground know the situation intimately. They, with our troops, are the professionals in the war games and take their jobs and partnerships seriously.
Who is abandoning who?
Buried in an unlikely National Review report were misleading accusations that are dangerous to U.S. troops.
“We’re abandoning the Kurds,” says National Review.
Erdogan, a NATO ally, is forcing the U.S. to pit ally to ally. It is Turkey’s doing that the U.S. battle-hardened relationship with the YPG/SDF forces is under pressure. That the Kurds now must fight both Turkey and ISIS. Turkey’s unilateral move creates a humanitarian crisis, which opens doors to powerful adversaries, like Russia and Iran, to exploit the riff and potentially overrun U.S efforts.
Trump’s critics hate him for both leaving and staying in the Middle East counterinsurgency fight.
The National Review attack alleged ‘we are unreliable to our allies and turning on the Kurds’. That rhetoric casts a bad light on our troops facing explosive and emergent situations in Kurdish Syria, Iraq, and surrounding countries. The U.S. military troops in the theater are under fire from their own media who cast doubt on their loyalties.
And what does casting doubt ultimately do to the Kurds and the innocent children we are fighting for?
Media assumptions dupe the American public.
A single Fox News report from an unnamed, unsourced soldier is hardly enough to justify this National Review statement:
“Members of the military are not infallible, but when everyone at the Pentagon, everyone in the intelligence community, and all of our allies and every expert on the region thinks a decision is a bad move, it takes a remarkably obstinate man to insist that he’s right and everyone else who’s been studying this region from the beginning is wrong. There is a willful blindness to the consequences and a message sent to every country and population around the world…And once our commander in chief believed we didn’t need them [Kurds] anymore…our country chatted with Recep Erdogan and let the Turks tear them apart,” says National Review.
It’s unbelievable to claim to know everyone’s mind on military actions/decisions in the Middle East. When’s the last time this reporter talked to a general in Syria or Iraq leading security forces on the ground?
If it’s one’s own son or daughter in a uniform with an American flag, one would craft less “obstinate” anti-military rhetoric “to every country and population around the world.”
Who are these ‘one in thought’ experts quoted by National Review, who collude on collective opinions, not facts?
The real experts on war? Is it desk-bound analysts, who study, in glassed-in offices or warriors who grind and clench to victory without getting blown up or killed. They know what is going on in Kurdish Syria and why. They are following orders. If the word ‘Intelligence’ means anything – Intelligence officials are not leaking opinions, let alone classified military directives. They honor the sensitivities of their job to protect troops in combat.
The best way to find out what the Pentagon, military leaders think is to ask them.
Due to ‘willful blindness to consequences’, the assumptive, misleading media ensures military lips are tight. The status of current U.S. and SDF forces operations in Kurdish Syria is unclear. Patriot Profiles reached out to CENTCOM CJTF-OIR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) who have yet to reply to inquiries. (Will provide updates when named sources respond).
How the military feels about partners and allies in combat.
USMC Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, (former) Commander Task Force Iraq,
“I can tell you that we have the Kurdish Training Coordination Center (KTCC) that involves Coalition forces that run a training course of Peshmerga soldiers. The goal of this course is to reinforce skills in basic rifle marksmanship, first aid, urban combat, and counter-IED techniques just to name a few. That partnership that we have is working out quite well and we look for it to continue to thrive in our efforts to defeat Daesh.”
USMC Brig. Gen. Bill Seely, Commander Task Force Iraq, regarding his Iraqi host,
“First- they invited us over – they asked for our help in the battle against ISIS. Of course, we’re going to come to the aid of our allies, right? I could really say we live with our partners and as such – we are as much a part of their staff as they are of ours. That’s how each of the staffs of the operational commands view their partnerships with their Iraqi hosts.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley speaks with conviction.
From Breaking Defense,
“The United States and the United States Army does value our alliances,” Milley said immediately…The Army conducts international conferences, officer exchanges, and other military-to-military contacts all the time, he noted, and it always fights alongside foreign forces.”
“The Army’s always gone to war with our joint partners — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines — and we’ve always gone with allies and friends and partners in the region,” he continued. “That’s been true for well over a century and I think it is likely to be true in the future.”
Achievement, not abandonment for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) is the U.S. military’s operational name for the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, including both the campaign in Iraq and the campaign in Syria.
Stars and Stripes reports,
“Army Lt. General Paul LaCamera assumed command of the coalition last September and led the alliance of 76 countries and five international organizations during a period that included the ouster of the terrorist group [ISIS] from its last stronghold in Syria this March.”
This culmination of a five-year fight marked the end of ISIS control of any physical territory, the end of global caliphate. Nearly 60,000 Iraqi and Kurdish security forces received coalition training during LaCamera’s tenure, Inherent Resolve said in a statement.
Recent reports and critics say we are running away from the fight and Trump is leading the ‘tail-between-your-boots’ retreat. This simpler view does not describe the complex picture. How the military disperses it manpower and conducts the battlespace is their strategic business.
Troops have spilled more than enough blood, left more than enough limbs behind to leave a footprint of commitment. So reject media that say our troops are leaving their allies and partners.
Troop commitment in sobering numbers.
DoD Casualty Report, October 07, 2019,
During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (2003-2011) U.S. military numbers read 4,419 deaths, 31,994 Wounded in Action (WIA). That was a time when Obama was president. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) (2014-present) lists 86 U.S. deaths and 80 WIA – during Trump’s tenure.
Operation Inherent Resolve includes casualties that occurred in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the Mediterranean Sea east of 25°longitude, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
Let the military feel our support – war is hard. Prayers for our troops and our coalition and regional partners, go a long way. It’s the American thing to do.
Featured Image: SYRIA, 2019. A Syrian girl gestures a peace sign to a passing Coalition Forces convoy in Ayn Issa, Syria, Jan. 31, 2019. Coalition Forces continue to train, assist, and advise partner forces to maintain regional stability. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Ray Boyington