Earlier this week, President Donald Trump made the controversial decision to pull U.S. troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria. Kurdish forces have been fighting alongside the United States for five years to combat Islamic State, with 11,000 of their fighters and many civilians paying the ultimate price.
The pull out has opened the way for Turkey to launch an offensive into Kurdish areas on Wednesday. Turkey's President Erdogan claims that he wants to create a safe zone in the area to settle as many as 2 million Syrian refugees.
So far, at least 11 civilians have died and dozens of Kurdish and Turkish forces have also been killed in the fighting. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.
The Turkish government views the Kurds as terrorists. The Kurdistan Workers' Party has been carrying out attacks against Turkey since 1984 in an attempt to achieve an independent Kurdish state in the areas of Kurdistan that Turkey controls, later changing it to a demand for equal rights and Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.
President Donald Trump has earned plenty of criticism for his decision. Including from one "distraught US Special Forces soldier" who has served alongside the Kurds. Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin spoke with the soldier, who chose to remain anonymous.
"I just spoke to a distraught US Special Forces soldier who is among the 1000 or so US troops in Syria tonight who is serving alongside the SDF Kurdish forces," Griffin explained in the first of a series of tweets. "It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever taken."
The soldier is quoted as saying: "I am ashamed for the first time in my career."
Griffin goes on to explain the soldier's circumstances: "This veteran US Special forces soldier has trained indigenous forces on multiple continents. He is on the frontlines tonight and said they are witnessing Turkish atrocities."
She goes on to quote the soldier as having said: "Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It's horrible."
The soldier continues: "We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement. There was NO threat to the Turks - NONE - from this side of the border. This is insanity. I don't know what they call atrocities but they are happening."
The soldier said that despite the Turkish offensive, the Kurds had not left their positions guarding prisons that hold members of ISIS. In fact "they prevented a prison break last night without us. They are not abandoning our side (yet)."
The soldier said that the Kurds are "pleading for our support." We are doing "nothing."
The soldier said that his colleagues and commanders were "surprised" by President Donald Trump's decision.
"He doesn't understand the problem. He doesn't understand the repercussions of this. Erdogan is an Islamist, not a level headed actor."
"The Kurds are as close to Western thinking in the Middle East as anyone. It's a shame. It's horrible. This is not helping the ISIS fight."
As far ISIS prisoners, the soldier predicts that many could break free as the Kurds are overstretched and become disheartened.
"Many of them will be free in the coming days and weeks," the soldier said.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier concluded. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
The Kurds, Syria's largest ethnic minority, have seized swathes of land in Northern Syria during the Syrian Civil War. Long mistreated by the Syrian government, they are now seen as the main opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of opposition forces seeking to create a "secular, democratic and decentralized Syria."
President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown of democratic protests sparked the civil war. The Syrian government has been accused of repeatedly targeting civilians during the conflict but is largely being kept in power by Russian support.
The Kurds call their autonomous region in Syria “Rojava,” meaning “the land where the sun sets.” And according to experts, it's one of the few truly democratic areas in the Middle East. The Conversation explains:
"Rojava’s charter guarantees freedom of expression and assembly and equality of all religious communities and languages. It mandates direct democracy, term limits and gender equality. Men and women share every position in government. Kurdish women have fought the Islamic State in Syria as soldiers in an all-female militia."
Unsurprisingly, the soldier's moving words earned plenty of support on social media. One Twitter user wrote: I understand. I am hoping that the world does not believe we are like this. The actions of our president do not reflect the people of the United States."
While another added: "This hurts my heart so much."
President Trump's decision to pull out of Kurdish areas has even earned condemnation from one of his most staunch bases of support, evangelical Christians.
The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder, Pat Robertson, blasted Trump on Monday, saying:
“I believe... the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.”
Many Christians view the secular Kurds as one of the only forces in the Middle East willing to offer persecuted Christians freedom of religion and protection.
In 2014, the Kurds were applauded around the world for fighting through Islamic State defenses to open an escape route for thousands of Yazidi civilians who faced death and slavery because of their religious beliefs.
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