U.S. Troops Withdrawing From Syria Face The Gauntlet

OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

After years of helping Kurdish fighters to liberate northeastern Syria from the tyranny of ISIS, President Trump ordered a withdrawal of U.S. forces. That withdrawal has begun.

He had his reasons, the most important being an impulsive Turkish incursion into the country. Our troops were in danger at that particular location.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained it this way:

“Due to Turkey’s irresponsible actions, the risk to U.S. forces in northeast Syria has reached an unacceptable level,” Esper said in a statement. “We are also at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict. Therefore, at the President’s direction, the Department of Defense is executing a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from northeast Syria.”

There were other reasons, likely valid. I don’t pretend to be a military strategist; in point of fact, Risk is one of my least favorite board games ever.

You probably have an opinion of Trump’s decision, one way or another.

It doesn’t matter.

I have an opinion of the decision, too.

That doesn’t matter, either.

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Let me share with you what does matter.

Kurdish residents who are upset by America’s retreat hurled stones, rotten vegetables and insults at our troops as a military convoy left Erbil, a city of the Kurdistan region. That’s right. They’re such allies that this is how they treat servicemen who so recently fought alongside them.

Here are just a couple of videos posted on the Rudaw English Twitter account:

Don’t get me wrong – I realize these people are in shock and feel betrayed. They’re probably scared to death that ISIS will win – Turkish-backed Islamist forces are reportedly already looting homes and businesses.

I understand that much is at stake, okay? It’s not ever as simple as it seems to someone sitting at a keyboard on the other side of the world. Most of us will never have to make, or face outcome of, such vital decisions. Protesters lobbing spoiled produce probably seem like…well…small potatoes, in comparison to world-shaping events.

But what’s done is done, no matter which side of the We Should Have Stayed or We Should Have Left Sooner argument you happen to champion. About 1,000 troops are leaving; most will simply relocate to western Iraq, where they will continue fighting terrorists – it’s not like they get to come home, anyway.

What matters at this point is how our troops are treated and how they will deal with the aftermath of a decision that wasn’t theirs to make. They were just following orders: Orders to deploy. Orders to stay and fight. Orders to withdraw.

The political thought critics of the world may scorn the departure of U.S. forces and label it a terrible disloyalty to our Kurdish allies. Apparently, many of the locals feel the same.

Here’s how I view the current situation: It could mean physical and other harm for our servicemen as they try to cope with cleaning up a mess they didn’t make (because that’s what they always do). They already suffer from PTSD all too often when they come home. This kind of condemnation could make it worse.

Am I angry? Hell yes. Yes, I am.

I am angry and scared on behalf of our troops. And if anyone cares to dispute my assertion that the safety and well-being of American servicemen should come first, that’s fine. I need to clean out my fridge anyway.