DAVID L. PHILLIPS
Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Deploring the Deal on Manbij The agreement between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to withdraw Kurdish fighters from Manbij in northern Syria is a strategic blunder, which undermines the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State.
Jihadists in the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkey, will assume free reign in Manbij. Recent experience in Afrin is illustrative. After occupying Afrin, the FSA committed atrocities including beheading Kurds, mutilating bodies, and looting property.
The Trump administration’s deal to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij has been taken over objections from the U.S. Defense Department. The YPG, Syrian Kurdish fighters, served as America’s boots on-the-ground retaking Raqqa and defeating ISIS in Syria. Allowing Turkey and the FSA to occupy Manbij is tantamount to inviting extremists to control territory that the U.S. and its Kurdish partners fought to liberate from jihadis.
Abandoning the Kurds to Turkey — a state sponsor of terrorism — casts doubt on America’s commitments to other groups fighting ISIS around the world. Who will fight and die when called upon by the United States if partnerships are purely expedient?
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