The Independent:‘We used to trust the US’: Syrian Kurds fear Turkish attack after Trump’s troop withdrawal Presence of US forces had acted as bulwark against Turkish attack
In the aftermath of a surprise announcement to withdraw American troops from Syria this week, US president Donald Trump has faced criticism from allies at home and abroad for threatening to derail the fight against Isis.
But of far greater concern for the Syrian Kurds currently on the frontline of that battle is the threat of an attack by Turkey, the likelihood of which has now increased significantly.
“There are serious risks from Turkey implementing its threats,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led group backed by the US and currently fighting against Isis.
“There are fears among civilians of massacres and displacement. There are over three million people in this region, and they are at risk,” he told The Independent.
The Kurdish and Arab militia has been a key US ally in the fight against Isis. For the past three years, Washington has backed the group with military aid, air strikes, and sent 2,000 troops to support them on the ground. Together they have captured nearly all of the territory once held by the extremist group.
US withdrawal from Syria might be exactly what Isis is hoping for
In the areas of northern and eastern Syria it now holds, the SDF has built the foundations of an autonomous administration that it hopes will outlast the country’s civil war.
But US support for the group has angered Turkey, a fellow Nato member, which sees the Kurdish fighters that make up the majority of the SDF as terrorists and a threat to its own stability. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch a cross-border incursion, along with allied Syrian rebel fighters, but the presence of US forces has prevented such a move.
The abrupt withdrawal of US troops announced without the coordination with the SDF, may have changed that. One western diplomat told The Independent that prior to Mr. Trump’s announcement, they had expected Turkey to take action east of the Euphrates at some point, “but carefully”.