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Staying in Syria would be dangerous for US troops

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In your Dec. 23 edition, both columnist Marc Thiessen and The Fayetteville Observer argued on your opinion page that the Trump administration made a serious mistake by directing a pullout of our forces from Syria. Both the column and editorial expressed views similar to those of now former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State. Unfortunately, none of the four sources provided any alternate views — strategic reasons why we should withdraw — that might let readers judge for themselves.

At this stage, we and our allies, mostly the Kurdish army, are an occupying force in Syria, regardless of our good intentions. The Syrian Kurds, the Iraqi Kurds, and the remaining Islamic State supporters all want us to remain to protect them from revenge from Syrian and Russian forces and, eventually perhaps, from the Turkish army which does not want an expanded Kurdish presence on its border. The Turks consider the Kurds terrorists.

On the other hand, the Kurdish army is flush from its recent victory and is eager to hold the ground it has won. This is a dangerous situation. The Kurds may choose to expand their use of Syrian territory to “liberate” Turkish and/or Syrian Kurds.

We do not need to be drawn into a situation where we are forced to defend one ally from another — especially from Turkey which has been such a bulwark against the Russians. The Turks have been hard to deal with lately, but they play a key role in stopping Russia’s long-standing goal of dominating the Middle East. The Turks are more vital allies than the Kurds.

Moreover, we are not abandoning the Kurds. This is not like Vietnam where we had to bring our brave allies to the U.S. to avoid having them killed or degraded by the communists. The Kurds have a thriving, nearly autonomous government in northern Iraq. The Kurds must stand alone if they wish to remain in Syria. Our military members appreciate and respect the brave Kurds, but we cannot allow our brave service men and women to be drawn into combat anarchy in close proximity to the Turks, Syrians and Russians. The war in Syria is after all, basically, a tribal conflict that we cannot reslove.

Marvyn J. Siders

Camden

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