Other view: Trump Abandons America's Kurdish Allies in Northern Syria

Other view: Trump Abandons America's Kurdish Allies in Northern Syria

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The past 16 years have been nothing short of tumultuous across Iraq and Syria. The United States found that, in its hour of need, it could not rely on NATO ally Turkey to provide military support. Other allies recoiled. But on the ground, the Kurdish fighters of northern Syria and Iraq stood steadfast as a reliable U.S. ally.

Whenever called upon to lend a hand, those Kurdish forces have been at America’s disposal. Now President Donald Trump wants to dispose of them.

U.S. military forces began withdrawing from heavily conflicted northern Syria on Monday, removing the only remaining buffer between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that provided crucial ground support to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey has long wanted to crush Kurdish aspirations for autonomy, and the presence of U.S. troops in northern Syria has stood as the only impediment to a Turkish offensive against a longstanding U.S. ally.

Trump asserted erroneously Monday that the Islamic State is defeated, so no further U.S. military presence in northern Syria is necessary. On Twitter, he referred to “ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal” as his justification for the withdrawal. A slaughter awaits Kurdish forces as Turkish troops advance against them from the north.

“If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who normally is a knee-jerk Trump defender. Speaking on Fox News, he labeled Trump’s decision “impulsive,” “short-sighted,” “irresponsible” and “a stain on America’s honor.” Trump’s move unquestionably strengthens the hand of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist with an increasingly anti-democratic, dictatorial bent.

As the Obama administration learned, to its horror, engaging in a wholesale withdrawal from a war zone without fallback military contingencies in case of security deterioration is an invitation to disaster. In early 2014, a small group of Islamic State militants seized control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and declared the formation of its “caliphate,” which soon spread across Iraq and Syria. Turkey stood aside, even opening its borders to allow more Islamic State militants to pour in. Iraqi security forces put down their weapons and fled. With U.S. forces no longer deployed, the only effective military resistance to an Islamic State sweep were the Kurdish forces of northern Iraq and Syria.

Likewise, when Turkey refused to allow the United States to use its territory to deploy troops during the 2003 invasion, Kurdish forces provided crucial front-line fighting and reconnaissance alongside U.S. Special Operations troops so the United States could establish landing sites and open a northern front in the war.

The message Trump now sends to the Kurds, and to pro-U.S. resistance forces around the world, boils down to this: Thanks for your help. Now get lost.

Judy Ferro is a columnist for the Idaho Press.


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A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

Imagine if you killed somebody on your job, and all you got that day was fired. You go into work the next day, return the keycard you swipe every morning when you get on the elevator, pack the things from your desk, toss out whatever food you have in the pantry refrigerator and say goodbye to your co-workers before two security guards escort you out of the building. And, let's just say this ...

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