Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in American Foe


DOHUK, Iraq — Kurdish forces lengthy allied with the United States in Syria introduced a brand new deal on Sunday with the federal government in Damascus, a sworn enemy of Washington that’s backed by Russia, as Turkish troops moved deeper into their territory and President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the American navy from northern Syria.

The sudden shift marked a significant turning level in Syria’s lengthy warfare.

For 5 years, United States coverage relied on collaborating with the Kurdish-led forces each to struggle the Islamic State and to restrict the affect of Iran and Russia, which assist the Syrian authorities, with a aim of sustaining some leverage over any future settlement of the battle.

On Sunday, after Mr. Trump abruptly deserted that method, American leverage appeared all however gone. That threatened to offer President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It additionally jeopardized hard-won positive aspects in opposition to the Islamic State — and doubtlessly opened the door for its return.

The Kurds’ cope with Damascus paved the way in which for presidency forces to return to the nation’s northeast for the primary time in years to attempt to repel a Turkish invasion launched after the Trump administration pulled American troops out of the way in which. The pullout has already unleashed chaos and bloodletting.

Turkey’s invasion upended a fragile peace in northeastern Syria and risks enabling a resurgence of the Islamic State, which no longer controls territory in Syria but still has sleeper cells and supporters.

After a Turkish airstrike, female detainees connected to the Islamic State rioted in a camp in Ain Issa, lighting their tents on fire and tearing down fences, according to a camp administrator, Jalal al-Iyaf.

In the mayhem, more than 500 of them escaped, Mr. al-Iyaf said.

Most of the camp’s other 13,000 residents are Syrian, but there are also refugees from Iraq who sought safety in Syria because of violence at home. By nightfall, some of those people had left the unguarded camp, too, fearing that it was no longer safe, Mr. al-Iyaf said.

“Everyone thought that the camp was internationally protected, but in the end there was nothing,” Mr. al-Iyaf said. “It was not protected at all.”

Determining the exact state of play on the ground proved difficult on Sunday, as the advances by Turkish-backed Arab fighters scattered Kurdish officials who had previously been able to provide information.

The likelihood of an ISIS resurgence remains hard to gauge, since the Syrian Kurdish leadership may have exaggerated some incidents to catch the West’s attention.

The camp escape came hours before the United States military said it would relocate its remaining troops in northern Syria to other areas of the country in the coming weeks.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the United States found itself “likely caught between two opposing advancing armies” in northern Syria.

Syrian government troops were expected to enter the city of Kobani overnight.

The Kurdish-led militia said the Syrian government had a “duty to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty,” and would deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Previously, Trump administration officials argued that keeping Mr. Assad’s forces out of the territory was key to stemming Iranian and Russian influence and keeping pressure on Mr. Assad.

Mr. Trump says his decision to pull American troops out of the way of the Turkish advance was part of his effort to extricate the United States from “endless wars” in the Middle East and elsewhere.

On Sunday, Turkish troops and their Arab proxies made major progress on the ground, seizing the strategic border town of Tel Abyad and prompting celebrations across the border in Turkey.

In Akcakale, a Turkish border town, residents raced around in cars, flying Turkish flags and honking their horns. Exiled Syrians, many of them from Tel Abyad, climbed onto rooftops to watch the end of the battle as gunfire sounded.

Three wounded Syrian Arab fighters were recuperating in a private apartment near the border in Akcakale after returning from the front line, where they had been shot in an ambush by Kurdish troops.

The men were from an area controlled by Kurdish forces who they said had prevented them from returning home.

“We will not stop,” said Abu Qasr al-Sharqiya, 34, who was shot three times in the leg. “We need our houses back, our children’s homes.”

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Erdogan announced that his forces controlled nearly 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria.

They have also taken control of an important highway connecting the two flanks of Kurdish-held territory, the Turkish defense ministry said. This allows Turkish troops and their proxies to block supply lines between Kurdish forces — and cut an exit route to Iraq.

It also makes it harder for American troops to leave Syria by road.

Since the Syrian civil war began eight years ago, northern Syria has changed hands several times as rebels, Islamists, extremists and Kurdish factions have vied with the government for control.

After joining American troops to drive out the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led militia emerged as the dominant force across the area, taking control of former ISIS territory and guarding former ISIS fighters on behalf of the United States and other international allies.



Source link Nytimes.com

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