A US soldier during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats in Syria’s Hasakeh province
For the past five years, Syrian Kurds have stood alongside the United States in its effort to vanquish the Islamic State, in the process securing control over a vast area of Syria they hoped would form the nucleus of an autonomous Kurdish region.
The unexpected announcement by President Donald Trump that he will draw down the U.S. military presence in Syria to make way for Turkish troops was greeted by the Kurds as a betrayal of the trust established during the fight, which has cost the lives of more than 12,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the joint Kurdish-Arab militia formed to battle the militants.
It remains unclear how extensive the U.S. troop drawdown or a Turkish incursion will be. A small number of U.S. troops pulled out Tuesday from two observation posts on the Turkish border, in the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, that were established earlier this year in an effort to create a buffer zone along the border in cooperation with Turkey.
From Turkey’s perspective, the U.S. partnership with the Kurds has always represented an affront to its decades old NATO alliance with the United States. The People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish group that dominates the SDF, is closely affiliated with the Kurdish PKK, which has been waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is labeled a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington.
For the Kurds,…