What’s agonizing is that Mazloum has been fighting alongside U.S. Special Operations forces that represent the steadfastness of this country’s military, and now he is experiencing a quite different American face. “To be frank, the first thing I thought about when I heard this decision was America’s reputation,” Mazloum said. “Because after this decision, what are people going to say about America? All the credibility and trust that was built, we have lost.”
Mazloum said Trump’s decision was a shock because it came just a week after a personal visit from Ambassador James Jeffrey, the administration’s special envoy to Syria. Jeffrey promised that U.S. forces wouldn’t withdraw until they had achieved the “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State, the expulsion of Iranian troops from Syria and a political settlement that stabilized the country. Jeffrey’s promises “created a high level of morale,” Mazloum explained, “but unfortunately, after a short period, the opposite happened.”
The Kurdish people have been abandoned by the United States before, when they became politically expendable. I asked Mazloum if he had ever thought, in working with his U.S. advisers, that the same thing might happen again. “If you want the truth, no,” he said. Now, after Trump’s announcement, he’s scrambling to open channels with Russia and the Syrian regime, “to fill this vacuum left by America.”
Mazloum believes that Trump made a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to invade Kurdish areas and destroy what he claims is Kurdish terrorism. Mazloum said he advised his commanders that this agreement was made by U.S. politicians, not soldiers. “This is something immoral, leaving your ally in the battle alone,” he said, something U.S. soldiers would never do by choice.
I asked Mazloum what he would be doing the following morning. He said he planned to go to the front lines, to bolster the morale of his 10,000 troops still battling the Islamic State. In this holiday season, when we think about keeping faith, that’s the kind of ally we are betraying.