byOctober 8. 2019
U.S. President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, October 6, that the United States troops inside Syria would not defend the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have built an enclave inside Syria along a section of the Turkish border. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are made up largely of Kurdish factions, who set up this armed force to defend the mainly Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. When the U.S. began its attack on the Islamic State (ISIS), the SDF became the ground forces beneath the U.S. bombers. Now, the U.S. has decided to betray the sacrifice of the SDF.
Turkey has previously threatened to attack the SDF and other Kurdish groups inside Syria east of the River Euphrates. In 2014 and 2015, Turkey signaled that it would invade Syria. In August 2016, the Turkish military crossed the border with U.S. air cover. Erdogan said—at that time—that Turkey was going to attack both ISIS and the Kurdish militia group, People’s Protection Units (YPG). This operation, which was largely around the Syrian town of Jarabulus along the Syria-Turkey border, was known as Operation Euphrates Shield. The 2016 intervention opened the door to two further interventions in northern Idlib (2017) and in Afrin (2018), the last operation with an Orwellian name—Operation Olive Branch. These were targeted attacks and not an all-out war on the SDF and other Syrian forces.
Now, Erdogan’s government is preparing to enter Syria for a major military operation against the SDF. The U.S. forces have already left the observation posts at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain—both key places where the U.S. monitored Turkish troops and shielded the SDF from Turkish attacks. That shield has now been removed. U.S. forces remain in the region, but there is every indication that they will remove themselves from the main hubs of the SDF.