Around the World: Syria

The White House has made the decision to pull troops out of Syria

As of Oct. 18, the United States forces are moving out of Syria, leaving only a force of 125 soldiers in the south of the country. It is not clear where all of the 1,000 troops being pulled out of Syria will be redeployed to in the Middle East, though we do know that some of them will be redeployed to Iraq, according to Defense Officials.

Since the departure of U.S. forces in the region, Turkey has taken this as the opportunity to invade Northern Syria. The Turkish goal with the invasion is to carve out a buff er zone in the northeast of Syria. The twenty mile buff er zone in the northeast of Syria that Turkey wishes to create is controlled by Kurdish Forces, who have been U.S. allies in the region in the fight against ISIS. Due to the removal of U.S. forces and the incoming invasion from Turkey, the Kurds have had no choice but to retreat as the Turkish Army is much more advanced, which makes it hard for them to put up a fight, according to a senior White House official.

Since President Trump sent the order for the withdrawal of U.S. troops out of Syria, the decision has faced bipartisan scrutiny from Congress. The blame has been pointed directly at the president, such as when Sen. Jack Reed (Rhode Island) said, “instead of telling Erdogan to stand down, President Trump is in full retreat. It’s shameful.” The U.S. moved its troops out of northern Syria out of fear that they would be hit by the Turkish artillery or by the disorganized Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. The Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said during an interview with Fox News that the U.S. is reluctant to go into an armed conflict with a fellow NATO member. “Their behavior over the past several years, has been terrible… they are spinning out of the western orbit, if you will,” Esper said, in reference to Turkey.

Turkey has wanted to attack the Kurdish-run Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) because of their ties to the YPG (YPG is the acronym used for the Kurdish words meaning “People’s Protection Units”). The YPG is recognized as a terrorist group by both the United States and Turkey, as they fought a guerilla campaign for several decades within Turkey. While the SDF has attempted to distance themselves from the YPG, Turkey still views them as a terrorist organization. The SDF has been a long standing regional ally with the United states with the fight against ISIS. Turkey is a close military ally to the United States as a fellow member of NATO. The United States has been putting economic pressure on Turkey but has been resistant to do any military actions.

The relative calm in Syria over the past few months compared to earlier parts of the civil war has ended. The sudden surge of violence in the region has caused a new exodus from the already war torn region with around 300,000 people fleeing primarily from the cities of Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad. The artillery and machine gun fire has been reserved not only for military targets but also hospitals, with the Roj Hospital, the last remaining medical facility, being hit by machine gun fire, killing one of their workers. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has reported that a “trauma stabilization point” has been hit by an artillery attack, even though it was clearly marked, damaging two of their ambulances. The ambulances that are operational have been unable to enter Ras al-Ayn without being attacked as they approached the city.

The invasion by Turkey has caused the creation of a new front in the already violent and chaotic Syrian civil war. Turkey has no reason to stop as they view the SDF, the Kurdish group in control of northeastern Syria, as indistinguishable from the PKK (Kurdistan Worlers’ Party), which has fought with Turkey for Kurdish independence for decades.

Sources: NY Times, The Guardian, WSJ, Washington Post.

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