The end result will be the same whether the United States stays for another 18 years in Syria or leaves immediately, according to Joe Kent, a retired Army Special Forces officer and Gold Star husband of Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent — a Navy linguist killed in Syria earlier this year.
“We can only choose how much we are going to lose in precious American blood and treasure and how long our enemies fight each other until they attack us,” writes Joe Kent in an op-ed for CNN published on Friday.
Kent, a retired Army chief warrant officer-3, says that he understands his fellow service members' frustrations over the apparent U.S. abandonment of the Kurds, but, he writes, “in Syria there is no sustainable victory to be had.”
“The President has said since he was a candidate that we would destroy the territorial caliphate and leave,” Kent writes. “He is fulfilling his obligation to the American people who put him in office. That is who our obligation is to, not the Kurds.”
Earlier this month, President Trump announced he would withdraw a small number of special operations troops embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria. Turkey, which considers the Kurds as terrorists, invaded soon after.
The United States warned Turkey it opposed its military operation, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, but the U.S. military moved its troops out of the way when it became clear the Turks would go in anyway, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters.
“We have not abandoned the Kurds,” Esper said. “Let me be clear about that. We have not abandoned them. Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey — just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.”
In his op-ed, however, Kent argues that the Kurds were solely a proxy force for the U.S. to defeat ISIS, and the U.S. was never in support of their push to create a Kurdish state.
“We have always told the Kurds that we are not going to get in between them and their neighbors,” Kent writes. “By focusing entirely on the tactical fight against ISIS and our fondness for the Kurds, we have lost sight of our resurgent cold war against Putin's Russia and the Islamic civil war between the Sunnis and Shia. But Russia has not lost sight of us.”
He adds: “We have absolutely nothing to gain and don't need anything from the wastelands of northeast Syria. This is not a strategically important location to the most powerful nation in the world.”
Defense Secretary Esper announced on Friday that the U.S. military would send “some mechanized forces” to eastern Syria to protect oil fields around Deir ez-Zor, seemingly contradicting claims from Trump on Twitter that “our soldiers have left and are leaving Syria for other places.”
“We are now taking some actions – I'm not going to get into the details – to strengthen our position at Deir ez-Zor to ensure we can deny ISIS access to the oil fields because we want to make sure they don't have access to the resources that may allow them to strike within the region – to strike Europe; to strike the United States,” Esper said. “Otherwise, all the other forces are intended to return home.”