- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the White House Tuesday to oppose President Trump’s surprise move to pull American forces out of a crucial buffer zone between Turkey and Syria.

Mr. Trump’s announcement sparked criticism and pushback from not only U.S. lawmakers and officials who called on the administration to reverse the decision, but also from scores of Kurdish-Americans who gathered outside the White House fence and demanded the U.S. stay to protect the area that is home to thousands of Syrian Kurds as a military offensive led by Turkey looms.

“Don’t let your allies perish,” yelled the rally-goers, displaying Kurdish flags.

“We urge U.S.A. to stop Turkish aggression,” read one protest sign. Another thanked South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — who on Tuesday vowed to implement “sanctions from hell” on Turkey if war breaks out — for taking a stance against the withdrawal.

The rally was led by the American Rojava Center for Democracy (ARCDEM), which advocates for a democratic Syria.

“The United States and the international community must reverse this decision, refuse to allow any Turkish invasion, and instead pursue a negotiated settlement that reflects the interests of all the peoples of Syria,” the group said in a statement Tuesday.

The group joined lawmakers and U.S. officials who have insisted that allowing Turkey into the region would spur a resurgence of the Islamic State terror group.

“A Turkish invasion would also allow ISIS to regroup and regain strength,” the statement read. “They cannot be trusted to secure captured terrorists or continue the fight against sleeper cells that continue to destabilize the region.”

Turkey on Monday began preparing for a military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Northeast Syria that is expected to take place over the next several days.

Although administration officials have insisted that as few as 50 U.S. forces would be repositioned, about 1,000 U.S. troops remained deployed in northern Syria. It’s unclear whether the remaining forces would stay in Syria if widespread violence erupts, however, Mr. Trump’s ultimate goal has long been to bring all U.S. troops home.

Despite their small number, the U.S. troops in Syria were seen as a restraint on Turkish military action across the border.

One rallygoer, who requested only to be identified as “Omer,” said Tuesday that the U.S. pullback came as a surprise to the local Kurdish community.

“Most of the Kurdish community here in D.C. was so shocked with that decision,” he told The Washington Times.

Omer, a Kurdish-American man living in the District, explained that because the U.S. has invested significantly in clearing the area of Islamic State over the last several years and has since played a peacekeeping role in northern Syria, the move was not welcomed among the Kurdish community.

“At least there should be a road map,” he continued. “The U.S. presence is symbolic over there and very meaningful. If there’s not any USA military over there, it’s kind of open door for a Turkish invasion.”

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