US veterans condemn Trump for allowing ‘wholesale slaughter’ of allies in Syria

'Just like there are Kurds who are alive because of US forces, there are Americans who are alive because of sacrifices the Kurds made for us'

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 31 October 2019 16:06 GMT
Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters drive an armoured personnel carrier across the border into Syria
Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters drive an armoured personnel carrier across the border into Syria (AFP via Getty Images)

A US veteran who fought alongside the Kurds said Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of northern Syria was an “abandonment of trust” and warned it could lead to the "wholesale slaughter" of America's allies.

Michael Newton, an army veteran with deployment experience in Operation Provide Comfort, which defended Kurdish civilians as they fled their homes in northern Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, told the The Independent he disapproved of the president's announcement.

“[The Kurds] are a people who believe in basic Democratic values and have long been oppressed from lots of quarters”, Mr Newton said.

“The reason why the US has had such a strong relationship with the Kurds is because they believe in human dignity and fundamental human rights, and they’ve been oppressed many, many, many times.

“The only beacons of stability and peace in that region are Kurdish-controlled areas.”

On Sunday, Mr Trump said that the US would not stand in the way of a Turkish invasion and would be withdrawing their forces from the area. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — the US's main ally in the fight against Isis in Syria — called the move "a stab in the back", having lost some 11,000 fighters in the years-long fight with the jihadists.

Turkish forces then began an massive ground and air offensive into northeastern Syria three days later, which has killed at least 10 civilians and displaced some 70,000. Ankara views the Kurdish forces as terrorists and accuses them of having links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

“The Turks do have a legitimate right of self-defence against real terrorists … and that would have required a security zone that balanced the needs of the Kurds with real legitimate Turkish security interests. But that’s not what’s happened here,” Mr Newton said.

“Not all Kurds are terrorists. For the Turks to make that argument is fundamentally wrong. What the Turks have done is to take an over-expansive view. The right answer would have been — and was working — a carefully-coordinated strategic plan to eliminate real terrorists.”

He added: “There are ways to conduct counter-terrorism campaigns that don’t include the wholesale slaughter of Kurdish forces.”

Other US veterans have this week joined the chorus of condemnation against the decision, citing the Soldier’s Creed which states a soldier “will never leave a fallen comrade”.

Josh Manning, a former counterterrorism analyst for the army, said in a tweet the decision was “hitting a lot of vets hard”.

“The Kurds sacrificed a lot and were just amazing partners in really tough times.

“I can’t imagine what its like being in N. Iraq [sic] and Syria and hearing your comrades under attack and being able to do nothing.”

Mr Manning later told The Independent: “Just like there are Kurds who are alive because of US forces, there are Americans who are alive because of sacrifices the Kurds made for us. Abandoning them to the Turkish military forces who want to raze their villages and cities is not the way to repay that debt.”

“The Kurdish intelligence, while not always perfect, was invaluable to how we understood the threat and nature of Iraq and the region,” he added.

The official Twitter account for the Special Operation Joint Task Force in Iraq and Syria, which previously fought alongside Kurdish forces, posted the hashtag in a tweet that has since been deleted.

In an Op-Ed for The Independent published on Wednesday, army veteran Charlotte Clymer described the Soldier's Creed as “a bedrock principle in the US military that goes back to the Revolutionary War, when our country was little more than a coalition of states seeking to overthrow an abusive tyrant.”

“This will lead to a slaughter of innocents who have supported our country through thick and thin,” she wrote. “The Kurds, who have been continually oppressed and brutalized, stuck with the United States because we essentially promised them survival. We gave our word as a supposed country of honour based on the principles of our founding: that all people should be free to set the shape of their destinies.”

Turkey: Civilians rushed to hospital as bombing rains down

Experts said Mr Trump’s decision could lead to a vacuum in the region that allows for the resurgence of ISIS. Meanwhile, Turkey’s advancement into Syria has already reportedly hampered Kurdish operations, which included the oversight of tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners who have been detained throughout the years-long conflict.

Asked about the possibility of those ISIS prisoners escaping, Mr Trump told reporters earlier this week: “Well, they’re going to be escaping to Europe.”

He also threatened “far more than sanctions” against Turkey if it failed to advance into Syria “in as humane a way as possible”.

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