November 14, 2019

America Should Support Everyone Who Has Served, Garrison Says

By Jacqueline Isaacs

On Veterans Day earlier this week, Rainey Center’s co-founder and president, Bishop Garrison, called on Congress to support those who have served with the United States’ forces in Syria. Garrison, together with co-author Benjamin Haas, Advocacy Counsel at Human Rights First, wrote in an article published by JustSecurity, that Veteran’s Day is meant to remember everyone who has served. There are people all around the world, including some foreign citizens, who have also worked to advance the United States' interests abroad. Garrison and Haas state,

One of the greatest strengths of the United States has long been its ability to work closely with allies to confront shared threats. And America is at its best when allies can trust it to support them through thick and thin. Yet the decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. forces from northeastern Syria with no responsible plan in place has opened the door for Turkish-backed forces to commit atrocities against our Kurdish allies and for hostilities against others who have supported the United States, violating the trust that took years to build and snubbing the sacrifices they made as part of the counter-ISIS effort.

Both Garrison and Haas are veterans themselves and are intimately familiar with the help American soldiers receive from allies. “They have acted as interpreters to help U.S. forces communicate with local populations. They have served as intelligence sources, often providing critical information to enable U.S. missions. They have provided logistical support, which may not be as glorious but is no less important,” they explain.

Veterans Day is a good time for Congress to remember our friends and allies in Syria, but Garrison and Haas warn that Congress must act swiftly, saying,

We should make no mistake—abandoning our allies has very real consequences, not just in Syria but also around the world with friends and foes alike. The U.S. government—including its diplomatic corps, military and intelligence community—cannot reasonably expect other nations or foreign citizens to trust us if we’re seen to be abandoning allies we promised to defend. And when the United States suddenly betrays vulnerable allies, it is a strategic boon for America’s enemies, as we can be more easily portrayed as unreliable partners. As Jon Finer, who was chief of staff and director of policy planning at the State Department during the Obama administration, and Brett McGurk, who was the special presidential envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS during the Obama and Trump administrations, recently wrote, ‘America’s partners around the  are watching closely to see if we still stand by those who stood with us.’

Against this backdrop, Congress must act. To help mitigate the catastrophe in Syria, Congress can and should take meaningful action. It has done so before. In the midst of previous U.S. troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress stepped up and passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act and the Afghan Allies Protection Act, creating legal pathways to safety in the United States for our threatened partners.

They conclude with several examples of hopeful, bi-partisan proposals to help aid and help our allies recently abandoned, saying, “these legislative proposals... either collectively or in certain individual ways would help to protect our partners and restore some measure of trust in America.”

Read the entire article here: Congress Must Act to Protect Those Who’ve Supported Us in Syria

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