But let’s be clear about US goals, too. Our advisors were not in northern Syria to defend a Kurdish government but to fight ISIS. The fight to smash the ISIS caliphate is over, and we won.
No US administration has ever bought into Kurdish national aspirations. Even the pro-Kurdish ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was a long-time investor in Kurdish oil, warned Iraqi Kurds to cancel a planned referendum on independence in September 2017.
When Kurdish Regional Government president Masoud Barzani defied those warnings, Tillerson said the results “lacked legitimacy” and warned there would be serious consequences. And the United States did nothing when Baghdad sent troops to the Iraqi city of Kirkuk shortly after the vote, then arrested the Kurdish governor-general and reclaimed control of the northern oil fields. That was a huge strategic setback for the Iraqi Kurds.
I have met with Kurdish political and military leaders in the region, including the PYD, the political arm of the Kurdish YPG militia. And while they were thrilled to have US backing in the fight against ISIS, none of them had any illusions about the US coming to their aid should Turkey attack.