A member of U.S. Special Forces serving alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria told Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin on Wednesday they were witnessing Turkish atrocities on the frontlines.
“I am ashamed for the first time in my career,” said the distraught soldier, who has been involved in the training of indigenous forces on multiple continents. The service member, whom Griffin described as “hardened,” is among the 1,000 or so U.S. troops who remain in Syria.
“Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” this military source on the ground told Griffin. “We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement [with the Turks]. There was no threat to the Turks — none — from this side of the border.”
President Trump said the U.S. would pull its troops from northeast Syria on Sunday, a move considered a blow to the U.S.-backed Kurds by many analysts and political observers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later announced a military operation in the region that he said was to “neutralize terror threats” and establish a “safe zone.”
At least seven civilians have been killed in strikes in northeastern Syria since the assault began on Wednesday, according to activists and a war monitor. Turkey later announced that its ground forces had invaded the region to fight the Kurds.
“This is insanity,” the concerned U.S. service member said. “I don’t know what they call atrocities, but they are happening.”
Griffin called it one of the hardest phone calls she has ever taken.
U.S. military officials told Fox News the president ordered the military not to get involved in the Turkish strikes, after the Kurds requested air support.
Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria are guarding thousands of captured Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, now without the help of the U.S. in the area.
The Special Forces member said the Kurds have not left their positions guarding detainees. In fact, “they prevented a prison break last night without us,” the military source on the front line said. “They are not abandoning our side [yet].”
“The Turks are hitting outside the security mechanism,” according to the source, who said the Kurds are “pleading for our support.”
The American troops are doing “nothing,” the source lamented. “Just sitting by and watching it unfold.”
Troops on the ground in Syria and their commanders were “surprised” by Trump’s withdrawal decision Sunday night.
Of the president’s decision, the source said: “He doesn’t understand the problem. He doesn’t understand the repercussions of this. Erdogan is an Islamist, not a level-headed actor.”
“The Kurds are as close to Western thinking in the Middle East as anyone,” said the longtime member of Special Forces. “It’s a shame. We are just watching. It’s horrible.”
“This is not helping the ISIS fight,” the military source said.
Many of the ISIS prisoners “will be free in the coming days and weeks,” he predicted.
Trump told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the captured terrorists were “really bad people who should go back to Europe.”
“We said to various countries, we’d like you to take your people back. Nobody wants them, they’re bad,” Trump said, saying that “maybe the Kurds […] if not them, Turkey” would deal with the ISIS fighters.
“The Kurds are sticking by us,” the Special Forces source stressed to Fox News. “No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us.”
American troops were disappointed in the decisions being handed down by senior leaders, the source on the ground added.