What can happen to a US ally
Most of us are not familiar with the Kurds although government statistics show that we have some 10,000 overseas Filipino workers in Iraq, many of whom are based in Iraqi Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of that country. Lately, the Kurds in northern Syria have been in the news.
Who are the Kurds?
The Kurds are an Iranian ethnic group found in a mountainous region in Western Asia with borders along Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia. They number between 25 million and 30 million, mostly Sunni Muslims and have long fought for an independent homeland of their own, one they refer to as Kurdistan. They are one of the largest stateless nations in the world but with strong militias in different countries. The strongest is the People’s Protection Units with initials YPG in northern Syria and the Peshmerga found in Iraqi Kurdistan that includes female fighters.
In 2014, as the Syrian civil war worsened and Islamic State (IS) forces grew in strength, vast swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory fell under IS control. In the war against the jihadists, the United States joined a coalition of several nations allied with native groups such as the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia, one of their strongest allies. With US support in terms of air strikes, logistics and military hardware and a small advisory force on the ground, the Syrian Kurds under an umbrella organization known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, were able to force the IS out of northern Syria, capturing its capital Raqqa, but at the terrible cost of some 11,000 casualties. American commanders assured their Kurdish allies they would be around to help keep the peace. President Donald Trump had other ideas.
On Oct. 6, in a major shift in US foreign policy that earlier resulted in the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, Trump ordered US troops to vacate their positions in northern Syria, leaving their Kurdish allies helpless without the cover of US presence. The withdrawal was the go-signal for Turkey to push into Syria and drive out the Syrian Kurds. Turkey has long been at odds with the Kurds, a minority in their country seeking independence. They view all Kurds as cooperating in an effort to carve out a homeland of their own.
Critics from Trump’s own party accused the president of abandoning the Kurds whose forces played a vital role in the fight against the IS. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, said: “We have sent the most dangerous signal possible — America is an unreliable ally.” Former senator Bob Corker, also a Republican, called the withdrawal “the biggest foreign policy blunder in years.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urged Trump to reverse course. A Democrat opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, called it “the greatest double cross of any US presidency.” The Syrian Kurds called Trump’s decision “a stab in the back.”
Trump defended his decision, saying “It was time for us to get out.” Adding insult to injury, he added, “They (referring to the Kurds) were not with us in Normandy (scene of the allied landing to liberate Europe in World War II)” and “the Kurds are not angels.”
Remember what US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told us in March, during a brief stopover: “We have your back!” Some people here were giddy with joy over that statement. In April, Pompeo told students at Texas A&M University that diplomacy with different countries requires different strategies. He declared, “What’s the cadet motto at West Point? You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s — it was like — we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”
Incidentally, Pompeo is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated No. 1 with the class of 1986, and went on to serve in the US Army. Pompeo also served in the US House of Representatives before his appointment in January 2017 as CIA director. In May 2018, Trump replaced Rex Tillerson with Pompeo as the 70th secretary of state of the United States. One of his key aides is Brian Bulatao, a classmate at West Point who was known in the cadet corps as “Rambo.” Bulatao’s father is Agapito Bulatao, an immigrant from the Philippines. When Pompeo was at the CIA, he brought in Bulatao as chief operations officer. When Pompeo moved to State, Bulatao moved with him and is now undersecretary of state for management.
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