BYU students, faculty react on withdrawal of American troops in Syria

Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump listens as he meets in the Oval Office. Trump recently ordered American troops to be removed from Syria, leaving the Kurds to defend themselves against Turkish forces. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Several interviewed BYU students and a faculty member said they view President Donald Trump’s recent removal of about 1,0000 U.S. troops from Syria in a negative light and worry about the lasting impacts the removal will have.

James Toronto, a BYU professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, understands the importance of international relations in the Middle East — personal understanding he gained while living in Turkey for several years.

“The decision to pull out of Syria was short-sighted,” Toronto said. “(Trump) has made the case that it was a campaign promise, that he needed to withdraw from all of these wars that seem to never end.”

Toronto said he doesn’t agree with Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops. He said he and other BYU commentators worry this decision will negatively affect the U.S.’s reputation and relationships with other allied countries.

While the Turkish people view the Kurds as terrorists and a security threat, according to an article by The New York Times, many Americans consider the Kurds their allies as both military forces fought side-by-side to oust ISIS from the area. Since the U.S. has pulled out of the country, Turkish forces threatened to take over Kurdish forces and Russia sent its own troops to the region.

Toronto said he believes the expansion of Russian influence in the Middle East is troubling.

“This can be dangerous to the national security of America as President Trump has retracted American presence in an allied country, leaving our allies to one of our greatest threats,” Toronto said.

From the White House Diplomatic Reception Room on Wednesday, Oct. 23, Trump lauded the recent events in Syria as a success and announced that sanctions imposed on Turkey for its border incursion will be lifted.

“We have done them a great service and we’ve done a great job for all of them. And now, we’re getting out,” Trump said in the press meeting. “Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.”

As a BYU student double majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies/Arabic, Bethany Crisp said she is concerned by the whiplash that may come from what seems like a rash decision.

“This decision to pull out of Syria will hurt our reputation because it makes our other allies worry,” Crisp said. “It’s not a good look in international affairs to arm your partner and financially support them and then all of the sudden announce over Twitter that you’re going to pull out.”

Dalton Bradford, a BYU student majoring in Middle Eastern studies/Arabic, believes the best thing America can do moving forward is to focus on helping refugees relocate to a safe place.

“One thing (America) has been somewhat hypocritical about is the refusal to accept refugees,” Bradford said. “We need to be generous to those who (are) fleeing this conflict”

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