(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
2 Turkish Soldiers Killed while Defusing Bomb
Monday, 9 December, 2019 – 12:15
A Turkish soldier walks next to a Turkish military vehicle during a joint US-Turkey patrol, near Tel Abyad, Syria September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said
At least two Turkish soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded on Monday while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device, officials said.
The device exploded in a village near the town of Idil, in the mainly-Kurdish populated Sirnak province, according to a statement from the regional governor’s office.
The explosive device was planted by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, The Associated Press quoted the governor’s office as saying.
The statement didn’t provide further details but said Turkey’s operations to combat the PKK were continuing with “determination.”
There was no word on the wounded soldiers’ conditions.
The PKK, which is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.
In October, Turkey invaded areas of northeast Syria in a bid to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its border. Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the PKK and has been infuriated by Western nations’ support to the group.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
The Struggle of Wills Between Revolution, Regime Reshapes Iraq
Tuesday, 3 December, 2019 – 12:45
Demonstrators gather at a protest during a curfew, three days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
Baghdad- Fadhel al-Nashmi
Iraq today has to decide between one of two choices: either answering to the protesters’ demands and overthrowing the post-2003 regime or reforming the current regime. The latter is what the vast majority of parties in power want. This either/or binary, though often dreadful in politics, is precisely the case in Iraq today.
The protesters are putting forward specific demands that they are not willing to compromise. Most notably, they insist on replacing Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government with a government that will hold those responsible for the murder of hundreds of protesters accountable, draft new electoral legislation, and form an independent electoral commission. The protesters want these steps to be taken in coordination with the parliament that will then resign to allow for early elections under international monitoring.
The protesters have already achieved their first demand. They have overthrown Abdul-Mahdi’s government, an indication that the regime is aware that it needs to compromise by scapegoating specific figures to satisfy the protesters.
The regime insists on finishing the remaining three years of its term, even if with a new Prime Minister, because of their fear that criticism of their notorious ties with Iran will prevent them from securing the 50 seats they need in the next elections. The Kurds are no longer heavily invested in Barham Saleh, with their interest in him restricted to demands that he secures budget that allows the nearly autonomous region to remain sustainable, protects minorities, and safeguards against the return of dictatorship.
This is similar to the young Sunni position highlighted in the May 2018 elections led by Mohamed al-Halbousi in that it insists on finishing its term to consecrate the new rule, while definitively excluding the old leaderships.
After Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saeron alliance withdrew their candidacy two days ago, the regime is in a better position to insist on finishing its term, and while doing so, propping up several obstacles and dragging the selection of a new prime minister for months. This will potentially spread despair among the protesters. It seems that Saeron withdrawing their candidacy was a pragmatic decision to save face with the revolution. A source from the alliance stated that it would go against their interests in front of their supporters and the protesters, in general, to get involved in this.
Besides, the alliance thinks that their competitors want to incriminate them in this vicious cycle of finding a new prime minister in order to reign in on whatever is left of Saeron’s popular support. Generally, no one side can be declared victorious yet. Still, the revolutionary forces are insisting on their demands and on crushing whoever stands against them. Whatever the outcome, the country is standing at the doorstep of radical change, and the scene after October will look nothing like it did before.
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On our way to Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in northern Syria, we see a US military convoy escorted by fighter jets heading east towards the Iraqi border. They are leaving the Kurdish region.
The first time I saw an American in Syria was in 2016. He was part of US special forces, sent to support the Kurds fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Locals were excited to see them arriving.
But it was in stark contrast this time around. Now you could see the fear and anxiety in the faces of onlookers.
We were only a few kilometers from the Turkish border as one of the jets circled overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke as it passed in and out of Turkish airspace.
One of our guides sighed. “Trump bi namoose,” he said to me in Kurdish. “Trump has no honor.”
The Kurds have every reason to be worried. On one side they face neighboring Turkey, on the other, Syrian government forces.
Now the US is leaving, Kurds here are convinced they have no friends other than the mountains they inhabit.
‘Trump sold us’
From the moment we arrived in Qamishli, ordinary Kurds from baker to waiter asked, “why did Trump sell us out?” This is a traditional society that prides itself on a code of honour and does not understand why it has effectively been cut loose.
“America stabbed us in the back… Trump sold us… we were betrayed,” we heard, again and again.
Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.
Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.
At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.
At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60’s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the YPG as terrorists.
The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community? Why don’t they stop Erdogan?”
‘What’s the point?’
In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.
“Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”
The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be prime targets. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.
At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.
“What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”
One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured; a hand and both legs are injured.
She laughs derisively. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”
Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.
“We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”
‘They are coming for us’
On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.
A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.
“Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.
As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.
“The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”
If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.
By William H. McRaven
Admiral McRaven is a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command.
Last week I attended two memorable events that reminded me why we care so very much about this nation and also why our future may be in peril.
The first was a change of command ceremony for a storied Army unit in which one general officer passed authority to another. The second event was an annual gala for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Society that recognizes past and present members of the intelligence and Special Operations community for their heroism and sacrifice to the nation. What struck me was the stark contrast between the words and deeds heralded at those events — and the words and deeds emanating from the White House.
On the parade field at Fort Bragg, N.C., where tens of thousands of soldiers have marched either preparing to go to war or returning from it, the two generals, highly decorated, impeccably dressed, clear eyed and strong of character, were humbled by the moment.
They understood the awesome responsibility that the nation had placed on their shoulders. They understood that they had an obligation to serve their soldiers and their soldiers’ families. They believed in the American values for which they had been fighting for the past three decades. They had faith that these values were worth sacrificing everything for — including, if necessary, their lives.
Having served with both officers for the past 20 years, I know that they personified all that is good and decent and honorable about the American military with genuineness of their humility, their uncompromising integrity, their willingness to sacrifice all for a worthy cause, and the pride they had in their soldiers.
Later that week, at the O.S.S. Society dinner, there were films and testimonials to the valor of the men and women who had fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. We also celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, recognizing those brave Americans and allies who sacrificed so much to fight Nazism and fascism. We were reminded that the Greatest Generation went to war because it believed that we were the good guys — that wherever there was oppression, tyranny or despotism, America would be there. We would be there because freedom mattered. We would be there because the world needed us and if not us, then who?
Also that evening we recognized the incredible sacrifice of a new generation of Americans: an Army Special Forces warrant officer who had been wounded three times, the most recent injury costing him his left leg above the knee. He was still in uniform and still serving. There was an intelligence officer, who embodied the remarkable traits of those men and women who had served in the O.S.S. And a retired Marine general, whose 40 years of service demonstrated all that was honorable about the Corps and public service.
But the most poignant recognition that evening was for a young female sailor who had been killed in Syria serving alongside our allies in the fight against ISIS. Her husband, a former Army Green Beret, accepted the award on her behalf. Like so many that came before her, she had answered the nation’s call and willingly put her life in harm’s way.
For everyone who ever served in uniform, or in the intelligence community, for those diplomats who voice the nation’s principles, for the first responders, for the tellers of truth and the millions of American citizens who were raised believing in American values — you would have seen your reflection in the faces of those we honored last week.
But, beneath the outward sense of hope and duty that I witnessed at these two events, there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within.
These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”
Those words echoed with me throughout the week. It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great. We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.
But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?
If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?
President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years. If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.
And if this president doesn’t understand their importance, if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.
Opinion | Alan Kennedy, Alexander Stockton and Nayeema Raza
I Did Not Join the Army to Abandon Our Allies
William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, is a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command and former chancellor of the University of Texas system.
(THIS IS LOGICAL FOR OUR PRESIDENT, PUT AMERICAN TROOPS LIVES IN DANGER FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PROTECTING OUR ENEMIES INCOME AND FUEL FOR THEIR WAR MACHINES TO USE AGAINST SYRIAN CIVILIANS.)(oped: oldpoet56)
Some U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields
U.S. military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on Sunday after pulling out of a base in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says some troops may remain in northeast Syria to secure oil fields.
Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images
The U.S. may now keep some troops in northeast Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday. It is the latest in a series of consequential pivots the Trump administration has made in its Syria policy.
Esper said the troops are needed to secure oil fields from falling into the hands of ISIS and profiting from them, The Associated Press reports. But most recently it was Russian mercenaries, not ISIS fighters, who tried to seize the oil fields and who were repulsed by U.S. airstrikes, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.
Despite President Trump’s earlier announcements that ISIS is defeated and that he is bringing the troops home rather than being entangled in “endless wars,” the U.S. forces are not heading immediately for home. Instead, they’re being moved to western Iraq to continue to fight ISIS there, Esper said during his overseas trip to Afghanistan and other countries.
Shortly after Esper spoke, President Trump acknowledged during a Cabinet meeting that the troops would be deployed to different areas first — but he added they would then return to the U.S.
“Well, they’re going to be sent initially to different parts, a different method,” Trump said. “Ultimately, we’re bringing them home.”
According to a White House pool report, Trump said of America’s allies in Syria, “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”
U.S. forces could be seen withdrawing on Monday. They left a base in Turkey and rolled into the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, NPR’s Jane Arraf reports. Thousands of refugees are also flooding across the border into Iraq, doubtful that the ceasefire the U.S. brokered with Turkey last week will hold, and unsure of what will happen next.
When American troops first arrived in North Syria, kurds received them as heroes with flowers and ululation.
Now terrified Kurds in Syria are throwing tomatoes and stones at departing American forces.@akhbar
As U.S. forces left the northeastern city Syrian of Qamishli, residents of the majority Kurdish city pelted American military vehicles with potatoes, the AP reported. “Like rats, America is running away,” a man was quoted shouting in Arabic.
There has been widespread criticism of President Trump’s decision two weeks ago to pull troops from northeast Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to assault the Kurds, key allies with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, says 120 civilians have been killed since Turkey began the operation it calls “Peace Spring” on Oct. 9. The group says 300,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that Turkish-aligned forces had violated the terms of the ceasefire. The SDF said violent clashes had broken out, with casualties among both the SDF and the Turkish-backed forces.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Jordan on Sunday, leading a delegation meeting with leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss the crisis in Syria.
With the U.S. pulling out its troops, Kurdish commander Mazlum Kobani is predicting his people will be slaughtered.
“There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it,” he toldThe New York Times. He said the U.S. should work “to limit the damage of this past decision and preserve the areas we liberated together.”
David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist force, which continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.
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Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Beginning on a positive note, we should celebrate the fact that the Dodgers will avoid losing three World Series in a row. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
Last Friday, the Kurds in northern Syria went to bed after yet another day existing precariously between warring factions that would brutalize them were it not for the skeletal presence of U.S. forces. On Monday, the Kurds faced a military incursion from Turkish forces and a renewed threat from Islamic State made possible by a sudden American withdrawal. What happened?
This is one of those rare cases in which a president like Donald Trump can have immediate, deadly and long-lasting consequences, thanks to both the vast powers vested in the position of commander in chief and the malignant incompetence of the person holding it.
President Trump deserves blame for mishandling a number of issues, but a problem like the trade war with China was preceded by a generation of economic duplicitousness by Beijing. Trump’s sudden withdrawal from parts of northern Syria, however, has all the fingerprints of his particular unfitness for the job: his impulsiveness, his purely transactional approach to foreign policy (remember, they “didn’t help us with Normandy”), his affinity for autocrats like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his supreme confidence in his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”
This is what happens when we let Trump be Trump — or as the L.A. Times Editorial Board put it in a scathing piece: “This episode is a reminder that, whether or not Congress concludes that Trump committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ deserving of impeachment, he is operatically incompetent in discharging the duties of the presidency.”
Trump will only get more Trumpy. Virginia Heffernan writes that the the unconstitutional refusal by the president’s counsel to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry is bad enough, but it pales in comparison to what Trump himself is doing: “To see a panicky president endanger our national security while he showers Erdogan and Putin with gifts is to see a leader over the edge. He has no intention of even pausing his traitorous crime spree on the way to impeachment.” L.A. Times
It’s (probably) safe to eat red meat again, but not because of some recent breakthrough in raising livestock. In fact, the food’s stayed the same, but the way some scientists are looking at the evidence has changed. Nina Teicholz writes that the latest flip-flop on red meat — clarification that, in fact, eating it has not been shown to be associated with a higher heart disease or cancer risk — uses the best science in place of scientists’ best guesses. L.A. Times
Want someone to blame for blackouts? Look in the mirror. Besieged utility Pacific Gas and Electric is getting plenty of deserved flak for its preemptive power outages in Northern California during high winds. But wind-driven wildfires sparked by malfunctioning electrical lines would be killing fewer people and destroying less property if so many Californians weren’t living in high-risk areas. L.A. Times
Trump is creating the worst constitutional crisis in 150 years. The term “constitutional crisis” gets thrown around too often, and it really does not have any legal significance. It is used properly to describe a breakdown in the constitutional order, something that has happened only a few times in U.S. history, most significantly before the Civil War. And Trump, by refusing to recognize the House’s sole power of impeachment as afforded in the Constitution instead of simply making his case to the American people, has touched off that kind of crisis. L.A. Times
Everyone made money off her athleticism — except the athlete. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi is one of the most celebrated college gymnasts ever; clips of her perfect-10 floor routine have gone viral. Problem is, the only participant in her fame who didn’t make any money from it was Ohashi. She explains why she believes that’s wrong, and why she supports California’s new law that will allow students to be compensated for their athleticism. New York Times
(IS TRUMP GUILTY OF TREASON AND MASS MURDER FOR DOING EXACTLY WHAT PUTIN AND IRAN WANTED, GENOCIDE OF THE KURDISH PEOPLE?)(OPED: OLDPOET56)
U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurd’s are under attack
Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY Published 6:59 p.m. ET Oct. 10, 2019 | Updated 8:52 p.m. ET Oct. 10, 2019
Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States. (Oct. 9) AP, AP
WASHINGTON – Two days before President Trump announced that he would pull U.S. military back from the border zone in Syria, Americans and their Kurdish allies had removed senior ISIS fighters from the battlefield, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The capture of the two fighters occurred as part of daily regular commando raids U.S. forces had been running with Kurdish soldiers, the official said.
Trump’s abandonment of Kurdish allies fighting ISIS has shocked members of the U.S. military and left it scrambling to protect American forces in Syria – and to look on as those they worked with side by side only a few days ago are now under attack as Turkey’s military continues to step up assaults on the region.
Thursday marked the second day of Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in the region. Turkey launched the assault because it views a Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group.
Earlier this week, Trump said he was delivering on a campaign promise to remove U.S. troops from “ridiculous endless wars.” Trump also defended his decision on Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Kurds, saying they had failed to fight with Americans in World War II.
Donald Trump is defending his decision to withdraw US troops from Kurd-held areas in northern Syria. A move that led to Turkey launching a military operation on Wednesday. Trump says he “campaigned on ending the endless wars.” (Oct. 9) AP, AP
The Pentagon has issued few statements since Trump’s decision, blaming Turkey for acting unilaterally and calling for a “safe zone” to be established in northeastern Syria.
‘None of our allies can trust us’
The Kurds formed the backbone of the counter-ISIS ground force, backed by the U.S.-led air war, that has retaken virtually all the land seized by Islamic State fighters since 2014. The Kurds have lost 11,000 troops in the fighting and have seen another 20,000 wounded. Their bloodshed and support has led to a kinship understood by many U.S. troops who view the U.S. withdrawal of support as a betrayal of a dedicated ally, the official said.
“None of our allies can trust us anymore,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. “The biggest loss here apart from the slaughter of innocent and loyal fighters on our side is the shattering of trust. The loss of our word as a bond. No one can rely on the United States if we abandon our fiercest most loyal allies who have literally shed blood for us.”
Trump’s decision has led to ad hoc measures to protect U.S. troops and attempts to mitigate losses to ISIS, the official said. Among them:
A hotline established with Turkey to notify U.S. commanders of areas where bombs will be dropped to ensure American troops are out of harm’s way.
The movement of 50 U.S. troops from the area contested by Turkey and the Kurds to two American outposts in Syria. Drones are being flown over the area to protect U.S. forces.
Kurds continue to guard about 30 prison camps holding about 10,000 ISIS detainees. About 2,000 of those prisoners are foreign fighters from 50 countries, from China to Canada.
U.S. forces are safe, the official said, and the 50 troops relocated to outposts represent a fraction of the 1,000 remaining in Syria.
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Deaths in Syria, but may be inflated
Turkey launched the assault because it regards a Kurdish militia within the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group. About 30,000 Kurdish fighters and civilians have been displaced by Turkey’s offensive.
Turkey is expected to turn over the fighting to local forces it backs, the official said. A second U.S. official said Turkey, a NATO ally, has been cut off from receiving U.S. intelligence on the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights estimates that 16 SDF fighters have been killed and dozens wounded. Erdogan has said “109 terrorists” have been killed. The U.S. official cautioned that both sides may be exaggerating losses or gains for propaganda purposes.
I know that there are a lot of people who don’t even know who the Kurdish people are and that is a shame because they have been a Ally to the U.S. military for decades now. They have fought along side our troops in Syria for years now helping us to defang ISIS and other terrorists in that region. The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group of people in the whole world that does not have a country of their own. The eastern population of Turkey has a huge percent of Kurdish people within their borders as well as in N.W. Syria, Northern Iraq and N.W. Iran. We have armed and trained the Kurd people for many years now but now that ISIS is supposedly defunct in Syria President Trump has turned his/our back on these people again but even worse this time.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has been trying to commit genocide of the Kurdish people every since he took office. Now, with the help of Iran and Trumps good friend President Putin of Russia President Erdogan has his military set up 20 miles deep into Syria (against the Syrian governments wishes) for the purpose of killing the Kurd’s. This Turk military action is also against the wishes of President Trump’s other good friend the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia MBS. The only reason that I can think of why President Trump would commit treason against the Kurdish people is because of his butt buddy Putin asking him too. For President Trump to agree with this Genocide of the Kurdish people is beneath the dignity of a snakes belly but then again this plays all to true for this President.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
With Little Progress on ‘Safe Zone,’ Erdogan Says Turkey to Act Alone in N. Syria
Tuesday, 1 October, 2019 – 11:30
FILE PHOTO: An internally displaced woman sits outside a tent in Idlib province, Syria July 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Tuesday that his country had no choice but to act alone in northern Syria after a deadline to jointly establish a “safe zone” with the United States in the area by the end of September passed.
“We have not achieved any of the results we desired in the east of the Euphrates. Turkey cannot lose even a single day on this issue. There is no other choice but to act on our own,” Erdogan said at the parliament’s opening ceremony in Ankara.
“We plan to settle two million people in the safe zones we will establish. We calculated the costs and we will carry out efforts to improve. We will start taking steps as soon as the region is saved from the invasion of terror,” he said.
Erdogan told the United Nations last week he wanted to set up the zone along 480 km of border and reaching 30 km inside Syria. Under the Turkish plan, up to 2 million Syrian refugees would be settled in the safe zone, with international support.
If implemented, the project could halve the number of Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey from Syria’s eight-year conflict, and drive the Syrian Kurdish YPG – which Ankara says is a terrorist group threatening its security – from the border, Reuters said.
While diplomats, analysts and Turkey’s main opposition say Ankara would be unwilling to anger Washington with a military incursion as the allies try to repair strained ties, Erdogan’s comments on Tuesday marked the clearest indication of an offensive in the region.
He added that Turkey aimed to host an “international donors meeting” to get funding for its plans in the area, which he said would stretch from the Euphrates river in Syria east to the Iraqi border.
Erdogan has repeatedly called on Turkey’s allies to provide financial support for the plans, including in his speech at the United Nations last month. But Ankara is unlikely to receive a response for any plan that settles people hundreds of kilometers from their homes and alters the demographics of northeast Syria.
The United States agreed to the safe zone as a way to protect its Kurdish allies in Syria and address Turkish concerns about the border, after President Donald Trump announced plans last year to abruptly withdraw 2,000 US special forces troops that helped Kurdish fighters battle ISIS.
But the US troops have yet to leave and Washington and Ankara have so far failed to agree on details. Turkey has accused the United States of dragging its feet and warned that it would take matters into its own hands.
Turkey has already launched two military incursions into northern Syria in the last three years and has stationed troops into the opposition-held Idlib region. It says preparations for another operation are complete.
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