The fundamental questions: 1) Why were U.S. forces in Syria? 2) What was their job?
They were there to fight ISIS. That’s why they were there. That’s it.
They were not there to get in the middle of ancient and ongoing contest between the Kurds and Turkey even though the Kurds fought with us against ISIS. Besides it was very much in their interest to side with us given what ISIS is. Plus, a small detail. Turkey is a NATO ally.
There are upwards of 35 million Kurdish people. They live in Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. They are one of, if not the largest, ethnicity in the world who do not have their own country. They don’t like that.
In Turkey in 1978, Kurd communists founded the minority militant and political Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In Syria the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) was formed and, along with it, a military arm called the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The PYD and YPG are aligned with the PKK.
Since the PKK’s founding, there have been at least 40,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced though little of this is reported on or known about in the U.S. The conflict involves the Kurds and all of those five nations to one degree or another.
If the U.S. were to assume a new role and side with the Kurds against Turkey, that would create a really messy situation between our two countries. Moreover, if we were to make any headway on behalf of the Kurds in Syria, then the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, and Iran might conclude that it is time for them to revolt too, more than they have already. After discounting the multiple factions among the Kurds and within the five nations themselves, that still leaves at least ten competing factions we would have to contend with.
The chances of us maintaining any control of scenario like this are three. Slim, fat, and none. Certainly, five countries would object. Strongly! It could, and likely would, have us in conflict with one or all of those five countries and in among the Kurd themselves. Possibly all at the same time.
That, of course, assumes that there would not be any outside actors who might try to make things a whole lot messier. Of course, there are none of those so we can rest easy. Right? Yeah, right.
The Kurdish push for independence and insurrection has been a serious issue. Turks have tried to quash and minimize it within Turkey. They don’t, for example, acknowledge Kurds at all, calling them mountain Turks. They’ve tried to prohibit a number of things to include even the Kurdish language.
About one-fifth of Turkey’s population is Kurdish and occupy about a third of the country. Turkey would never give up that population and any of that territory without a nasty fight.
All along, across the border, the Kurds in Syria, especially the PYD and YPG, have been a thorn in Turkey’s side. That’s why Turkey moved into Syria.
The Kurds and the Turks, the Kurds and Armenians, the Kurds and the Iranians, the Kurds and Iraqis, and the Kurds and the Iranians are an old molten pool of searing hot lava that will only burn and scorch those who get in the middle. Add to that mess, conflicts and disputes the five countries have amongst themselves that don’t involve the Kurds. Somehow, they must solve this for themselves. That won’t be pretty as the death toll indicates. And as it increases.
Kurds now know that the U.S. isn’t going to be involved in this struggle. We are not sure if this will help to diminish the strife between the Syrian Kurds and the Turks. There might be reason to hope that that would be the case. On the other hand, it might precipitate something untoward between Syria and Turkey. And/or other countries as well. One way or another, the overall problem of the Kurds versus everyone else in the region won’t go away.
But we can’t fix this. It’s absolutely impossible. Even if we wanted to.
No more American blood and treasure to fix what we can’t fix.
Trump made the correct decision.