One of the nation’s leading Christian conservative advocacy groups that has been supportive of the Trump administration has joined Syrian Christians in warning that President Trump’s plans for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will put Christian communities in “mortal danger.”
In an op-ed co-written by Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, the organizations executive vice president; and Travis Weber, a former Navy pilot and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who serves as FRC’s vice president for policy, argue that withdrawing the troops won’t result in Trump’s stated campaign promise to defeat the Islamic State.
The terror group, which gained control of large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014, has been largely pushed out of its strongholds but many have warned that the deadly extremist group is still not defeated.
“While ISIS has suffered, it is not finished,” the men wrote, adding that reports show that the terrorists still control territory with forces capable of mounting another insurgency in the future.
“Indeed, the Department of Defense stated just this past August “that ISIS retains nearly 30,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria and is ‘more capable’ than Al-Qaeda in Iraq — ISIS’s predecessor — at its peak in 2006 – 2007. Such a force would pose a serious threat to all peace-loving and free areas in Syria, including the Federation of Northern Syria.”
The Federation of Northern Syria is a de-facto autonomous region comprised of three smaller self-governing regions.
According to Boykin and Weber, the federation “has emerged as a religious freedom miracle.” The region is protected by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have been part of the coalition fight to eliminate IS from the region.
“There, people of all faiths live side by side in peace,” the op-ed reads. “They are the type of allies the United States should be seeking in the Middle East and around the world. While the deck is typically stacked against religious freedom in this region, within the Federation even ‘converts from Islam can build a new church — rather than face the death penalty’ as they often do elsewhere. The Federation is a glimmer of hope in a dim part of the world.”
However, IS is not the only threat to the federation. NATO member Turkey has threatened to launch another offensive against militias in northern Syria with the help of extremist militias. Many fear that another attack similar to the Turkish offensive in Afrin earlier this year could occur. Over 167,000 Yazidis, Christians and others were displaced by that offensive.
If Turkey is allowed to lead an offensive in areas under self-governance in Syria, activists that land will eventually end up under the influence of Iran.
“The Christian communities there fear total destruction by the hands of Turkey Iran, and even ISIS as that is not fully defeated yet,” stated the European Syriac Union in a press release. “We call on European countries to join the U.K. and France in finalising the fight against ISIS and keeping North-East Syria stable. We and many experts believe that ISIS otherwise will return in strength.”
Emanuel Youkhana, a priest of the Assyrian Church of the East, told the Catholic News Agency that he thinks a withdraw with no guarantees “opens up the gates of hell.”
“I expect this decision will force the Christian community to flee, to migrate once again,” he said. “They still have fresh in their collective memory the genocide that took place against them by the Ottoman Turks in 1915.
The priest warned that the withdraw will “lead to more fears, concerns and a bleeding of the Christian population to leave Syria.”
According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, a Kurdish pastor wrote a letter to president Trump telling him that his decision for a withdraw caused some people in his community to cry.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith