US withdrawal: what will become of the Syrian Kurds?

The US has begun to withdraw its troops from Northern Syria. At the same time the Turkish army has announced that it has completed preparations for an offensive in the area. Until now Washington had opposed a Turkish invasion of Syria in order to protect allied Kurdish militias. Commentators fear a further destabilisation of the region and criticise Trump.

Open/close all quotes
Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Trump driving Kurds into Assad's arms

Turkey is becoming the biggest danger for the Syrian Kurds, the Wiener Zeitung points out:

“Turkey, which didn't exactly distinguish itself in the fight against the IS, now believes that the Kurdish militias on Syrian territory pose a greater threat than the jihadists. After all, the government in Ankara has been dealing with a Kurdish rebellion in the southeast of the country for many years. ... With the withdrawal of the US troops the danger of a military conflict between the Turkish army and the Syrian Kurds will increase dramatically. And such a conflict would allow the IS jihadists, who have since been dispersed scattered and gone underground, the opportunity to regroup. At the same time, the US president is driving the Kurds into the arms of Bashar al-Assad, because they have less reason to fear him than they do Turkey.”

Nowaja Gaseta (RU) /

Only a fragment remains of Rojava

Novaya Gazeta's military expert Pavel Felgengauer predicts what will happen to the Kurdish state Rojava in Syria following the US withdrawal:

“The Kurds have promised to fight to the last, to initiate protests in Turkey and all over the world and to move the conflict onto Turkish soil with attacks on police and members of the military. But they will not be able to survive bombs, artillery and tanks. The Turks will drive back the YPG and occupy the north of Rojava. In the south, Iranian and Assad units aided by the Russians are crossing the Euphrates and capturing important oil and gas reserves at Deir ez-Zor, where they've been wanting to drive out the Americans for a long time - and where Trump has now allowed this to fall into their laps. Neither Teheran nor Moscow nor Damascus want to fight the YPG. ... Therefore, some kind of non-aggression pact will be concluded with the rest of Rojava.”

Novi list (HR) /

The usual Twitter show

US President Trump is accompanying the withdrawal of US troops with strongly worded tweets. Novi list believes this is mere show:

“On Sunday Trump opens the doors for a Turkish offensive in Syria and on Monday he threatens to destroy Turkey's economy if it launches such an offensive. It is clear that Trump cannot destroy the Turkish economy and that his statements on Monday were intended mainly for an American audience, or rather for his critics, but also for his supporters, who are likewise of the opinion that the withdrawal will give the United States' Kurdish allies a number of problems. Trump was very quick to play down his assessment of the possible extent of destruction of the Turkish economy. In a telephone call he warned Erdoğan that the Turkish economy would be 'extremely decimated' in the event of inhumane acts in Syria.”

Pravda (SK) /

Ingratitude is the reward for fighting IS

This is a betrayal of the Kurds that will have unforeseeable consequences, Pravda says:

“The Kurds, who were involved in the defeat of the IS terrorists, can now expect a Turkish invasion as their 'reward'. ... If the Turks invade a region in which around four million people currently live - mainly Kurds but also Assyrian Christians and Armenians - this will trigger a great wave of migration. A military operation will destabilise the region and culminate in an ethnic cleansing. The resettlement of so many refugees will not be cheap. The estimated cost is 26.5 billion dollars. Erdoğan is hoping that Europe will pay the full amount. Will the EU give its blessing for Turkey's violation of international law or will it finally start acting like a real power?”

Avvenire (IT) /

United in fear of Kurdistan

Trump isn't the only one betraying the Kurds, columnist Giorgio Ferrari explains in Avvenire:

“Washington will look the other way as Erdoğan's tanks enter this part of Kurdistan. Which shows just how much confusion reigns here regarding the interests and rivalries between powerful countries which, despite all being Nato allies - France, Turkey and the US - are all pursuing their own interests in the Syrian puzzle. And then you have to factor in Russia and Iran's objectives. Ultimately, however, they all have one common goal, namely to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdistan. Because while the Turks see this as a deeply destabilising factor in the region, many others see such a state as an economic threat due to its potentially gaining control of the rich Iraqi oil fields.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Europe's cowardice is taking its toll

Europe will bear partial responsibility if captured IS fighters could come free as a result of the US withdrawal and a Turkish offensive, De Telegraaf admonishes:

“Trump rightly points out that he has called on the allies several times to take back 'their' IS fighters and put them on trial at home. Apart from a few exceptions, however, nothing of the sort has happened. ... Apparently Europe had nothing against the Kurds holding the terrorists captive with US support. There is a certain irony in the fact that in this way Europe has helped to create a desert version of America's so heavily criticised Guantánamo Bay prison. The outrage we're seeing today should be directed at Europe's own failed policies, which as so often in the past are marked by cowardice and indecision.”

Liberal (GR) /

Not a walk in the park for the Turkish army

Liberal believes that this time the Turkish undertaking won't be easy to implement:

“There's no guarantee that the Turkish army will simply continue its 'walk', as it did at the beginning of 2018 when it invaded the area west of the Euphrates and occupied Afrin. Because back then the Kurds basically decided not to fight. But east of the river lies their stronghold, and it is very likely that they will defend it tooth and nail even if they are alone - which doesn't rule out a long-term conflict.”