When the current war in Syria broke out a number of years ago, the United States instinctively took to supporting a Turkish-controlled militia called the Free Syrian Army that sought to overthrow the government of Syrian dictator Bashir Al Assad, whose military efforts at reconsolidating power quickly gained the support of Iran and Russia. Amidst this situation, what we today know as the Islamic State arose to take advantage of the resultant power vacuum, quickly becoming the main and most effective anti-government fighters. And meanwhile, in the north of the country, anarchist Kurdish forces seized most of Syria's border with Turkey with little resistance from a rather distracted central government, and set about reorganizing their territory along the lines of participatory democracy, communalist economic principles, and proportional representation for women.
Beginning in mid-2014, the progressive Kurdish forces began focusing their war efforts on attacking the Islamic State following a string of attacks therefrom against them. This new strategy drew out American support, which in turn alienated Turkey, which fiercely opposes Kurdish independence (and I mean far more so than the Islamic State, which they've barely done anything to combat). Over the subsequent three years, Turkey, in protest, achieved a diplomatic rapprochement with Russia at the same time that Russia ramped up its own military activities inside Syria beginning in late 2015. Unsurprisingly, the increasingly Russia-controlled Assad government resultantly regained control of most of the western part of the Syria during said period, while the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (or SDF for short, which includes a small number of Arab fighters allied to the Kurdish efforts), successfully drove the Islamic State out of its self-declared caliphate in Raqqa over in the eastern part of the country and confined the remaining ISIS fighters to the eastern border with Iraq. Following this development, however, the relationship between the United States and the SDF has changed, with U.S. President Trump seeing the American role in the conflict as essentially complete.
In February of this year, Turkey invaded the SDF-controlled city of Afrin in the western part of Kurdish territory, forcing the SDF to redirect their efforts against the Islamic State along the eastern border with Iraq toward basic self-defense against a hostile foreign actor in the west. It's worth pointing out here that the Kurdish-led fighters have no tanks or planes or any of that, in contrast to the Islamic State, and certainly in contrast to regular armies like Turkey's, to which end they have depended on American air support for many of their recent victories against ISIS. Though the Kurds are the undisputed best ground fighters in Syria (they had never lost a battle until this year, if that puts matters in perspective), they require American air support to successfully defend against far better-funded militaries like that of Turkey. Said aid was not provided in the defense of Afrin, as the U.S. government preferred not to directly attack what formally is a NATO ally even though said "ally" was attacking the Kurdish forces they (the U.S.) had committed to aiding. Afrin was lost as a direct result. Since that time, relations between the SDF and the United States have been strained. (It may be worth adding here that most of Turkey's ground fighters in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, at this point are former members of ISIS. Just to put matters in perspective.)
Since the betrayal of Afrin, other American betrayals have followed. The U.S. subsequently stopped supplying armaments to the SDF, for example, on the grounds that the SDF's current focus on self-defense against invading Turkish forces is the wrong one and that they need to get back to focusing on taking out the country's 2,200 or so remaining ISIS fighters along the border with Iraq. Recently, as you may have heard, U.S. President Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing American special forces troops from SDF territory "very soon", with some reports quoting him as specifying "within six months". The consequences were made clear when a meeting between the governments of Russia, Iran, and Turkey was called to decide Syria's future. Notably absent was Bashir Al Assad or any other representative of what formally is Syria's government, so completely irrelevant have they become to the policies of their own country. The Assad regime is clearly but a proxy force for the other three specified foreign powers at this point, which are themselves rather dominated specifically by Russia and its influence. President Trump's announcement of impending unilateral withdrawal has apparently been too radical a betrayal of the SDF even for the American military brass, all of whom have expressed shock and dismay in the aftermath and warned that the result could be a resurgence of the Islamic State in Syria. In contrast, the American military brass had planned to aid in the reconstruction of Syria's SDF-governed, war-torn northeast and in the finishing off of ISIS forces concentrated along the Euphrates.
The Kurdish forces are angry at these American betrayals. Articulating an increasingly common view, a senior Kurdish figure who has liaised regularly with U.S. officials raised the prospect of abandoning their fight against the Islamic State altogether in protest: "They want us to finish what’s important to them, but they won’t concern themselves with what’s important to us. Let them fight ISIS. Let us fight for ourselves. Do they really know what they’re doing?" Now that is a very good question! Unfortunately, I suspect the answer for Mr. Trump's part anyway is actually yes. I will publicly speculate here that the U.S. president's recent decisions about the future of Syria and the SDF are related to his personal, discomfortingly warm relationship to the authoritarian government of Russia and its desires for the future of Syria, not unlike his reluctance to enforce sanctions against the same unanimously voted upon by the U.S. Congress in protest of the country's interference in the 2016 U.S. election, his reluctance to condemn political murders by the FSB (the Russian secret police) while other Western leaders do so, and his warm congratulations to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on his recent re-election, which was achieved by way Mr. Putin having his main rival banned from running, taking over the media, and having the ballot boxes stuffed in plain sight. There is a worrying pattern of behavior to be observed here, and one which aligns with the fact that the global alt-right movement that propelled him to power is largely controlled by Russia. Just my opinion.
Unfortunately, this is what usually happens to anarchists. They will find a power vacuum in some kind of crisis situation (most often a civil war) and then just get drowned in blood as soon as the power vacuum begins to disappear. That's what happened in Ukraine a century ago. It's what happened in Spain in the 1930s. Etc. And it's happening again in Syria today. As much isn't surprising, but, to me anyway, it is disheartening.
(To those who have questioned the merits of my vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, this is among the reasons for my vote. This that I am describing right here is an example of something I view as unacceptable that definitely wouldn't be happening if Hillary Clinton were our president right now.)