As U.S. troops withdrew from a town in northern Syria, they were given a parting goodbye in the form of rocks and tomatoes thrown at their vehicles by town residents.
The sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, making way for a Turkish military offensive to secure a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, has come at the cost of an apparent abandonment of U.S.-allied Kurds. In a video obtained by the Washington Examiner, a crowd of residents from the Syrian town of Qamishli could be seen pelting a U.S. armored vehicle with rocks and rotten fruit and attempting to block the vehicle from leaving.
As the armored vehicle, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Oshkosh M-ATV, attempted to back up from the blocked traffic, one resident could be heard yelling in broken English, “f*ck Turkish, f*ck America.”
That same resident continued to yell warnings about the threat Kurdish residents would face if the U.S. left them to face the Turkish onslaught.
President Donald Trump’s initial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria was met with pushback from members of both sides of the political aisle and foreign policy critics. Those critics noted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s animosity towards the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which he labeled as “terrorists.”
The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 9, 2019
At the outset of Turkey’s military offensive, Erdogan linked the PKK with the Kurdish-Syrian Defense Force (YPG), which has been a primary ally to the U.S. in its operations in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
The uncertainty of which methods Turkey would use to differentiate Kurdish groups and the specific methods of their offensive, called “Operation Peace Spring,” was one cause for concern. Another concern raised was that the Turkish attack would drive off Kurdish fighters tasked with guarding captured ISIS prisoners and allow those terrorist fighters to escape.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to the Turkish capital of Ankara to secure a ceasefire agreement with Erdogan. The agreement called for a 120-hour period to allow Kurds in the area of Turkey’s military offensive to withdraw before Turkey would resume its operation to establish a roughly 20-mile wide, 300-mile long buffer zone along Turkey’s border with Syria.
Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, before the ceasefire was even agreed upon and even amid reports Turkish artillery strikes had landed close to U.S. positions.
Even after the ceasefire was agreed upon, Turkish military strikes continued against one town in northern Syria, hitting both Kurdish fighters and civilian positions before coming to a stop to honor the ceasefire.