Former general: Trump abandoning Kurds 'will severely damage American credibility'


Former head of CENTCOM Gen. Joseph Votel slammed Trump for abandoning America's Kurdish allies despite their work to fight ISIS.

Joseph Votel, a retired four-star general and former commander of U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, slammed Donald Trump's decision to give up on Kurds in Syria, giving them up to a likely Turkish assault.

Trump's abrupt decision has been widely criticized across the political spectrum. His close ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said the action would "lead to ISIS reemergence" in the region.

Votel left his position in March, making the critical op-ed published Tuesday in Defense One an unusually blunt rebuke from someone who held such a high rank in the armed services.

"The abrupt policy decision to seemingly abandon our Kurdish partners could not come at a worse time," writes Votel. "The decision was made without consulting U.S. allies or senior U.S. military leadership and threatens to affect future partnerships at precisely the time we need them most, given the war-weariness of the American public coupled with ever more sophisticated enemies determined to come after us."

In his piece, Votel explains that under the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which started under President Barack Obama, Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS."

Votel notes that SDF forces sustained nearly 11,000 casualties while six U.S. service members have been killed in the campaign, highlighting the front-line role the Kurds have taken in the fight while Americans have not had to be directly in harm's way.

"It didn't have to be this way. The U.S. worked endlessly to placate our Turkish allies," Votel writes, lamenting Trump's effective concession to the Turkish government.

"A possible invasion from Turkey against the Kurdish elements of the SDF, coupled with a hasty U.S. departure, now threaten to rapidly destabilize an already fragile security situation in Syria's northeast," Votel notes.

After the first wave of criticism, the Trump administration said it was not abandoning the Kurds and would not support a Turkish incursion. But Votel says the damage has been done.

"It appears the Turks have taken the shift to signal a green light for an attack in the northeast," Votel writes. "This policy abandonment threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS and will severely damage American credibility and reliability in any future fights where we need strong allies."

Aside from a few figures closely tied to Trump, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Sens. Rand Paul (R-TN) and Mike Lee (R-UT), few national figures are standing with Trump on this significant national security decision.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.