Benjamin H. Friedman, Opinion contributor
Published 6: 13 p.m. ET Oct. 8, 2019 | Updated 8: 14 p.m. ET Oct. 8, 2019
Congress: President Trump’s failure in Syria was not his goal of leaving; it was failing to implement a full withdrawal: Opposing view
The United States should withdraw its military from Syria quickly. But that does not mean clearing a path for Turkey to attack the Syrian Kurds. The United States does not owe the Kurds indefinite protection, but they do deserve fair warning of U.S. withdrawal.
U.S. forces should have left Syria already. With the Islamic State caliphate destroyed and local forces eager to attack its remnants, there was no justification for the U.S. forces to stay. And there was grave risk of the U.S. troops — whose presence Congress never authorized — being pulled into a major war or sparking terrorism rather than suppressing it.
Turkey’s threat to attack Syrian Democratic Forces complicated U.S. withdrawal. But there was a rough solution: Let the Kurds negotiate with Damascus to restore their status quo ante. They lose autonomy but keep a militia, while Syrian regime forces police the border against remnants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. That would have kept ISIS down, Turkey out, and the Kurds in reasonable shape.
Instead, U.S. officials discouraged the Kurds from that course, giving them a false sense of endless protection.
And Washington saddled the small U.S. military force in Syria with impossible aims: Evict Iran, reconstruct to prevent extremism and keep pressure on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad by aligning with the Kurds, while also pacifying Turkey, somehow. U.S. policy ignored the ugly reality that the Assad regime will win. Helping create a durable peace requires dealing with it.
President Donald Trump’s failure in Syria was not his goal of leaving; it was failing to implement a full withdrawal. Even now, the U.S. forces there are just moving out of Turkey’s way, not exiting.
At this point, there is no pretty way out. But a decent one would set a certain date for U.S. withdrawal, giving the Kurds time to prepare and then implement it swiftly. No foreign interest should be confused with our own and used to keep U.S. forces in Syria forever.
Benjamin H. Friedman is policy director at Defense Priorities.
If you can’t see this reader poll, please refresh your page.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/10/08/get-out-syria-but-give-kurds-fair-warning-editorials-debates/3913258002/