The Defense Dept. confirmed this week that US Air Force fighter-bombers bombed a US arms depot.
Recently, President Trump surprisingly announced that the US was pulling all its forces out of the Syrian border area. US forces had been there supporting the fight against ISIS, along with Kurdish rebels who were also fighting in the Syria civil war against terrorist forces. With little notice, the President decided that US forces would leave, coincidentally just as Turkey was preparing to invade. (Turkey has a longstanding dispute with its own Kurdish minority and has long wanted to take military action against the Kurds in Syria to extend their control over the area.)
The US pullout was so abrupt, and done with so little coordination among Trump’s own Administration, that the armed forces pulled out without time to load up and take their weapons and ammunition with them. So, after they pulled out, the US Air Force was ordered to destroy the arms depot to prevent the weapons and ammunition from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
A clear waste of money, and a demoralizing effect on our armed forces to be forced to blow up their own equipment solely because decisions were made in haste and without thinking ahead.
Of course, that doesn’t even speak to the broader question, which is why the US pulled out in the first place. On Capitol Hill, there was overwhelming and bipartisan condemnation of the decision to pull out. We had gained the help of the Kurds, a persecuted ethnic minority, to fight ISIS which had control of large parts of Syria at one point. Indeed, it was the Kurdish militia that provided the bulk of the manpower (and had the most success) in the fight against the ISIS caliphate in Syria.
Yet, just as Turkey was massing its army on the border, President Trump pulled out. When his announcement came, a Kurdish general remarked to a journalist that the US was leaving them to be “slaughtered”. Indeed, Turkey did invade immediately after the pullout and reports include high numbers of Kurdish civilian casualties. Turkey also promptly declared its intention to extend its control over the whole Kurdish ethnic area.
Not surprisingly, Russia was prepared to jump into the vacuum left by the United States. Russian President Putin quickly invited the Turkish President to a summit, where they agreed to divide up the territory formerly held by the Kurdish US allies.
Russia acted quickly to fill a vacuum left by the US withdrawal, just as then-candidate Trump had said happened when President Obama had pulled back in the Middle East years earlier. Turkey then attacked in a war or aggression to conquer territory and the US has left an open question about how it treats its allies, abandoning the Kurds abruptly in the obvious face of danger.
And the ultimate humiliation of it all was to bomb and blow up your own weapons because you couldn’t take them with you. Politically, militarily and diplomatically…one cannot imagine how this move could have been more a failure.