News·7 min read

The Kurds

Kurdish protest
Getty Images
Oct 11, 2019

Earlier this year, President Trump pulled US troops from the Syrian border. That led to negative consequences for a key ally in the region: the Kurds. Here’s what to know about who they are and how Trump's decision impacts the Middle East.

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The Story

The Kurds are familiar with conflict. And the US just added another one to their plate.

The Background

The Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without an actual state. And they’re involved in some of the biggest conflicts in the world. In this Skimm Notes, you’ll learn…

✷ Who the Kurds are

✷ Their situation in the Mideast

✷ Why they want independence and whether they’ll actually get it

Ok so the Kurds want independence. Why do I keep hearing about Turkey?

For decades, the Turkish gov has been fighting with a Kurdish militant group. The group wants a Kurdish state along Turkey’s border. But Turkey's always said 'not happening.' Turkey shares a border with Syria and also considers the Kurds in Syria a threat. Meanwhile, important to note that both Turkey and the Kurds are allied with the US. Turkey is a NATO friend and the Kurds have been key to helping the US fight ISIS in Syria. Yes, this has put the US in the middle of an awkward dynamic. And things just escalated...

The Big Issue

President Trump – who campaigned on pulling the US out of foreign conflicts – recently ordered US troops to withdraw from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish operation there. That’s led to a lot of criticism that the US abandoned the Kurds and left them vulnerable to an attack by Turkey. Which is exactly what happened. Here’s what to know:

On Skimm This: Democrats and Republicans are speaking out against the surprising pullback of US troops from northern Syria, saying the Kurdish forces that helped defeat the Islamic State could be at risk. We explain the pushback Trump’s big move is facing on Capitol Hill.

Then in the Daily Skimm:

The Debate

The Impact

The Kurds are angry. US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also angry. They say this decision hurts US credibility with overseas allies. And warn that if the Kurds – who hold thousands of ISIS fighters in custody – now have to worry about fighting Turkey, those fighters could escape and give ISIS a chance to make a comeback.


For years, the US has deployed thousands of troops to the Middle East to help fight ISIS alongside US-backed forces like the Kurds. The terror group was defeated in Iraq in 2017, and lost the last of its territory in Syria earlier this year. Now Trump says it’s time for US troops to come home. But doing so could threaten stability in the region and puts the troops who helped the US in this fight at risk of being killed themselves.

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