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Canada Newfoundland veteran afraid for Kurdish fighters in Syria after U.S. troop withdrawal

19:50  12 october  2019
19:50  12 october  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

US to step aside for Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria

  US to step aside for Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria US to step aside for Turkish assault on Kurds in SyriaTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Kurdish forces as a threat to his country. Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.

A Newfoundland navy veteran who fought ISIS in Syria fears for Kurdish forces in the region following the withdrawal of U . S . troops . After months embedded with the Kurds, Kennedy tried to cross into Iraq to help in the battle for Mosul. He was arrested and held in an Iraqi prison for 10 days

Even after the president’ s announcement, officials said, the Pentagon and State Department continued to try to talk him out of it. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said President Trump’ s decision to withdraw U . S . troops from Syria “rattled the world.”CreditCredit Erin Schaff for

a group of people in uniform: Michael Kennedy, centre, was on the front line at the start of operation Wrath of Euphrates, a major offensive to push ISIS from the Iraq/Syria border region. © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Michael Kennedy, centre, was on the front line at the start of operation Wrath of Euphrates, a major offensive to push ISIS from the Iraq/Syria border region.

A retired Newfoundland navy veteran who fought ISIS in Syria fears for Kurdish forces in the region following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"ISIS can see what's happening. They can see that there's been a significant shift in the situation with the Americans pulling out," former leading seaman Michael Kennedy told CBC News.

Now Turkey has free rein, he said.

"Turkey and the U.S. have had a very strained relationship over the past year with regards to this, with the Americans being in there helping the Kurds."

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Russian-backed Syrian forces pushed into Kurdish -held territory after U . S . troops withdrew — setting up a potential clash with Turkey’ s forces and threatening the lives of those caught in the middle. Newfoundland veteran afraid for Kurdish fighters in Syria after U . S . troop withdrawal .

A coalition of Syrian Kurdish fighters , Americans and other foreign troops had fought the Islamic State in northeastern Syria since 2014. About 1,000 American troops were in Syria before the withdrawal began this month. The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was leaning toward

After Kennedy retired from the navy in 2016, the St. Lawrence native left Canada to join Kurdish forces fighting the terrorist organization in Syria.

"I went over there just to volunteer after seeing what was happening on the ground, and in our own country," he said, mentioning Canadian soldiers Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent, who were killed in, respectively, Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., both in 2014.

"These things affected my reasoning for going there," he said.

Kennedy says he was also motivated to join the fight to honour his brother Kevin, who was killed by insurgents in Afghanistan in 2007.

After months embedded with the Kurds, Kennedy tried to cross into Iraq to help in the battle for Mosul. He was arrested and held in an Iraqi prison for 10  days, until Canadian diplomats intervened to gain his release.

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And after months of anti-government protests in Syria , the U . S . had a message for President The United States began deploying troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria in 2015; a year later, an The extremist group has repeatedly boasted in online messages that the military withdrawal from

troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to The U . S . pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after the Islamic State group began to take

Now, he's working a civilian job in Ontario and watching his former comrades in battle again. This time the fight is not only against ISIS, but also the Turkish army, which is moving into the region after American troops pulled out this week.

"Americans have been arming them, co-ordinating air strikes, just supporting them and advising them in the past few years of this conflict — I guess acting like a protective blanket for the Kurds," he said. "Because as long as Americans were embedded with the Kurds, the Turks, which are NATO allies, are not going to attack American positions."

a group of people looking at the camera: Kennedy stands in Manbij village, outside Tel Tamir, Northern Syria, which was assaulted and its population almost completely wiped out by ISIS.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Kennedy stands in Manbij village, outside Tel Tamir, Northern Syria, which was assaulted and its population almost completely wiped out by ISIS.

Reports from Syria already confirm attacks on Kurdish troops and civilians by both ISIS and the Turkish army.

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Related Stories. Newfoundland veteran afraid for Kurdish fighters in Syria after U . S . troop withdrawal . 'We need something concrete': Ottawa Kurds demand action on Turkish incursion. Trump authorizes sanctions on Turkey as Syrian army moves into Kurdish -held territory.

The troops — primarily Special Operations forces, trainers and support staff — since then had been deployed quietly in northeastern Syria , where they fought alongside Kurdish fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces; at Al-Tanf in southern Syria , where they trained Kurdish and other

Kennedy says the U.S. and its allies have betrayed troops that helped them defeat ISIS in the first place.

"To me it was a large stab in the back for the Kurds because they've been the main ally and ground forces fighting against ISIS since 2014," he said.

"And with the way Turkey handles its business politically, over the course of history dealing with the Kurds, there's full villages been wiped out by the Turkish army. It's upsetting."

a group of people posing for the camera: Michael Kennedy, centre, stands with Kurdish comrades on an offensive operation to root ISIS from the Southern Singer mountain region. Also pictured is Chris Ledbetter (far left), a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Michael Kennedy, centre, stands with Kurdish comrades on an offensive operation to root ISIS from the Southern Singer mountain region. Also pictured is Chris Ledbetter (far left), a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

It's especially upsetting for Kennedy, who's still in touch with many of his former Kurdish and foreign volunteer comrades.

"I do still have a lot of friends over there that I served alongside. Many of these cities and towns I've been in. My boots have been on the ground there," he said.

"So it's kind of sad thinking [that] if the Turks push forward, it's going to be a large humanitarian crisis. And I think ISIS will regroup in certain areas and the situation is going to continue to deteriorate," he said.

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On Wednesday, Americans troops were among the dead after a bombing attack in northern Syria that was claimed by the Islamic State. There are still around 2,000 American troops in Syria , but the attack on Wednesday raised still more questions about their withdrawal from a country in which the

President Trump' s planned withdrawal of troops from Syria risks upsetting the fragile balance of power in a complex, multi-sided war. That is because the United States backed a mostly Kurdish force in Syria , saying they were the fighters most capable of pushing back the Islamic State.

He knows his Kurdish friends will fight back against the Turks and the extremists, because they're fiercely proud and tough. He supports them because of their basic humanity in a place where the value of human life is often cheap, he said.

a man sitting on a bench: Kennedy, right, in Manbij, Syria, sits alongside good friend and comrade Michael Israel. This was the furthest coalition forces and Kurdish People's Protection Units had pushed into northwest Syria to liberate the villages and eventually the city, which was also a strategic ISIS stronghold. Israel, an American volunteer, was later killed by a Turkish air strike on Kurdish defensive position.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Kennedy, right, in Manbij, Syria, sits alongside good friend and comrade Michael Israel. This was the furthest coalition forces and Kurdish People's Protection Units had pushed into northwest Syria to liberate the villages and eventually the city, which was also a strategic ISIS stronghold. Israel, an American volunteer, was later killed by a Turkish air strike on Kurdish defensive position.

"Once I did arrive on the ground, I was treated with respect. I never wanted for anything while I was there. Little as they had, I was taken care of," he said.

"And they really respected my presence being there to help them. Obviously, we were risking our lives to help them and fight alongside them. They are fighting the good fight."

He says he worries because the Turks have the second-largest military force in NATO, while the Kurds are a militia without air power or tanks.

"If Turkey presses forward with this operation, it's not going to be good for the Kurds. As sad as that is, and as much as it hurts me to say this, they can't win."

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a group of people sitting at a table: Kennedy enjoys a dinner the Kurds planned to welcome him to their unit to aid in the large-scale offensive in 2016 to clear the Iraqi/Syrian border of all ISIS insurgents. The entire unit, made up of westerners from many countries, including Canada, U.S., Germany, England, France and Spain, was invited.© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Kennedy enjoys a dinner the Kurds planned to welcome him to their unit to aid in the large-scale offensive in 2016 to clear the Iraqi/Syrian border of all ISIS insurgents. The entire unit, made up of westerners from many countries, including Canada, U.S., Germany, England, France and Spain, was invited.

The Turks continue to push forward in their effort to clear a security zone on their southern border with Syria, moving the Kurds out of the area they now occupy in order to make room to send millions of Syrian refugees home.

Kennedy says while he supports his former comrades in spirit, he can't see himself returning to Syria. He says his family has been through enough with its sons fighting in war zones, and he just wants peace in his own life.

"I'm at a different point in my life where I just want some peace," he said. His family has been through a lot, he said, noting the loss of his brother and his own time in the Iraqi prison.

"I don't think right now, at this point, I would ever go back."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Syria-Turkey crisis: Putin now owns this mess .
As US President Donald Trump hailed the agreement his administration negotiated with the Turks for northern Syria as "a great day for civilization," the Turks quickly dumped cold water over the White House's euphoria, refusing to even call the deal a ceasefire. Only a few hours later, airstrikes and artillery fire could be felt in northern Syria as the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces accused Ankara and its proxies of severe ceasefire violations. The mood both in Washington and in the Middle East is that the ceasefire is not the real deal.

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