The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

We Betrayed the Kurds. Now Captured ISIS Fighters Are Escaping.

A Turkish military convoy is pictured in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey, October 9, 2019. (Mehmet Ali Dag/ Ihlas News Agency/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The weekend brought an absolute disastrous reversal in the United States’ battle to ensure ISIS stays defeated; Joe Biden makes a campaign promise that includes an inherent admission; and Tulsi Gabbard decides not to stay home on debate night, surprising no one.

While Betraying the Kurds, America Gives Away a Hard-Won Victory over ISIS

As the situation on the border between Turkey and Syria gets worse, defenders of the president’s decision have shifted to hand-washing that would impress Lady Macbeth.

“This isn’t our fight!”

The battle against ISIS certainly is our fight, and any comprehension of the interests of the United States would require keeping captured ISIS prisoners behind bars. Whatever else you think of the Turkish government, Erdogan, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces or YPG (“People’s Protection Units,”), the primary objective of the U.S. presence in that region had to be to ensure that dangerous Islamic State fighters stayed behind bars and were not let loose to either reconstitute the Islamic State or restart the ISIS campaign of terror against everybody they deem an infidel or apostate.

The fallout from Trump’s decision to give Turkey the green light to attack across the border is a mass breakout of captured ISIS prisoners.

At this point, out of the 11,000 or so captured Islamic State fighters, the U.S. military can guarantee the continued detention of . . . two. Not even the 60 worst-of-the-worst that they had initially hoped to transfer to American custody.

Trump has said repeatedly that the United States has taken the worst ISIS detainees out of Syria to ensure they would not escape. But in fact the American military took custody of only two British detainees, half of a cell dubbed the Beatles that tortured and killed Western hostages, American officials said.

The Kurds refused, the American officials said, to let the American military take any more detainees from their ad hoc detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, which range from former schoolhouses to a former Syrian government prison. Together, these facilities hold about 11,000 men, about 9,000 of them Syrians or Iraqis. About 2,000 come from 50 other nations whose governments have refused to repatriate them.

The fighting has raised concerns that jihadists detained in the battle to defeat ISIS could escape, facilitating the reconstitution of the Islamic State. Five captives escaped during a Turkish bombardment on a Kurdish-run prison in Qamishli on Friday, Kurdish officials said.

After a Turkish airstrike, female detainees connected to the Islamic State rioted in a camp in Ain Issa, lighting their tents on fire and tearing down fences, according to a camp administrator, Jalal al-Iyaf.

In the mayhem, more than 500 of them escaped, Mr. al-Iyaf said.

Most of the camp’s other 13,000 residents are Syrian, but there are also refugees from Iraq who sought safety in Syria because of violence at home. By nightfall, some of those people had left the unguarded camp, too, fearing that it was no longer safe, Mr. al-Iyaf said.

Everybody’s loose. We had ISIS bottled up. We had victory. And then we gave it away.

The United States military might have been able to transfer more prisoners to more secure facilities if U.S. policy, set by the commander in chief, hadn’t abandoned the Kurds so suddenly and completely. “After the Kurds acquiesced to those two transfers, they stopped cooperating with the United States in anger at what they saw as Mr. Trump’s betrayal, according to American officials.”

And no, we’re probably not going to get another chance to transfer those prisoners. “The Pentagon’s decision on Sunday to pull American forces out of northern Syria means the opportunity to take custody of additional ISIS prisoners — even if the Kurds were to decide to start cooperating again — is rapidly evaporating, the officials said.”

Maybe you’re the kind of hardline nationalist who thinks that terrorist attacks in other countries are their problem, not ours — even if Americans are getting killed in those attacks. Maybe you have the ability to shrug at bombings, stabbings, and other attacks in Brussels metro stations, trains in France and Germany, the Jewish Museum in Belgium, the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa, hostage-taking and stabbing during a mass in Normandy, France. Maybe you remember all of that and think it’s a problem for our allies to deal with, not us.

But surely you recall Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opening fire on people in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 and injuring 24.

You remember Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando.

On November 28, 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan stabbed people and tried to run over them with his car on the campus of Ohio State University.

I do recall everybody on the right side of the aisle being justifiably furious when Obama went golfing right after the beheading of James Foley. I also remember a whole lot of us being furious when Obama declared that the Islamic State was “contained” several days before the dreadful ISIS attacks in Paris.

How many of the same people will reflexively defend President Trump’s decision now?

Franklin Graham — son of Billy Graham, one of the most influential voices in Evangelical Christian circles, and usually a staunch ally of President Trump — is calling for U.S. sanctions on Turkey. Last week he tweeted:

“The Kurds are the ones who have been leading the fight against ISIS in Syria. Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that President Trump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance.”

Last week, Mike Huckabee tweeted:

“a HUGE mistake to abandon Kurds. They’ve never asked us to do THEIR fighting-just give them tools to defend themselves. They have been faithful allies. We CANNOT abandon them.”

We did.

Joe Biden: If Elected, I Will Not Continue That Arrangement That I Insist Was Ethical

Spot the inadvertent admission in the announcement from Joe Biden this past weekend:

Biden promised to bar his family members from occupying any office within the White House and said they won’t “sit in meetings as if they are a Cabinet member.” That was a jab at Trump, who taps daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, as advisers. Biden did not say if his pledge meant that his wife, Jill Biden, would not get the office traditionally assigned to first ladies, should he win.

He further vowed that no one in his family will have “any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or foreign country.”

A few sentences earlier, Biden declared, “No one has asserted my son did a single thing wrong, except a lying president.”

Er, no, Mr. Vice President. It might be accurate to say, “no one has yet shown evidence that your son broke the law.” But going all the way back to MBNA hiring him right out of law school and him forming his own lobbying firm, wealthy people and institutions who needed government policy steered in a particular direction hired him. Other Obama administration officials were uncomfortable about the arraignment; at some point the administration would inevitably make some decision that benefited one of Hunter Biden’s clients, and critics of the administration could contend the decision was reached to benefit the client instead of whatever greater good it was supposed to serve.

If having a business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or foreign country is ethical, there’s no need for Joe Biden to make this pledge now. And if having a business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or foreign country is unethical . . . then the Bidens have to account for that now.

Tulsi Gabbard Ends Her Bluff

The least surprising announcement in a while: “Four days after announcing that she was considering boycotting the next debate, Tulsi Gabbard says she’s going to go.”

Gee, you mean she didn’t choose to give up a hard-earned moment in the national spotlight? Go figure! The “I may not participate in order to protest the DNC and corporate media” was always an implausible threat and something of a cheap gimmick.

ADDENDA: I don’t know about you, but a lot of my autumns are essentially: “I HATE FOOTBALL WHY DO I WATCH I HATE FOOTBALL WHY DO I WATCH I HATE FOOTBALL WHY DO I WATCH I HATE FOOTBALL WHY DO I WATCH OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING DID I JUST SEE THAT I CANNOT BELIEVE WE’RE WINNING YES YES YES I LOVE FOOTBALL I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL NEXT WEEK.”

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