Will We Abandon Syria’s Christians?

In this February 7, 2018, file photo, American troops look out toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Manbij, northern Syria.

By Published on December 21, 2018

President Trump’s recent announcement that he will withdraw U.S. military forces from Northern Syria aims to fulfill a campaign promise that he will defeat ISIS and bring home our troops. Yet it stands to put Syria’s Christian community — who have been a target of ISIS — in mortal danger.

Compounding the danger of a withdrawal is the irony that it won’t likely help the president achieve his promise. While ISIS has suffered, it is not finished. Some reports show that ISIS still controls territory and has forces in place capable of again mounting a serious 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.

In recent years, the Federation has emerged as a religious freedom miracle. There, people of all faiths live side by side in peace. 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.

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We must not snuff it out now by withdrawing our military forces. ISIS is still active, and still wants to wipe out all its opponents — especially former Muslims who have chosen Christ, who are considered apostates and marked for death. This is an incredible religious freedom problem within Muslim communities worldwide. Against this dark backdrop, the Federation stands as a shining City on a Hill.

This problem is hard to understand for those of us in the modern United States, where we enjoy such freedom to choose what we believe and how we will live. Despite our rancorous and argumentative public square, we don’t kill people for choosing to believe differently. But within much of the Islamic world, leaving Islam (apostasy) is punishable by death. And given the fusion of Islamic law and governmental power, those in control often use their power to execute apostates. On top of this, ISIS has an even more extreme interpretation of apostasy than many other Muslims.

If the U.S. withdraws from this part of Syria, then Turkey — whose recent claim to religious freedom fame is its unjust detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson — is ready to step in. Our withdrawal would also allow Iran to expand its influence in the region and menace its neighbors, including Israel. Violent jihadists everywhere will see it as a signal to slaughter Christians, Yazidis, and others.

Our withdrawal from this part of Syria would betray our allies in the Middle East — once again.

The Federation of Northern Syria is committed to democracy, the rule of law, and religious freedom, including full rights for all faiths, women, and Muslim converts to Christianity. A number of its residents have fled there after being pursued by jihadists elsewhere in Syria. The destruction of their new safe haven now could destroy all future hope for full religious freedom for Christians and others in the Middle East. Further, failing to cultivate such religious-freedom-loving areas in the Middle East would contribute to the region’s destabilization in the long run, causing its inhabitants to flee to surrounding areas and around the world (something many of them don’t want to have to do).

Only one week ago, President Trump signed legislation to bring aid to Christians and other victims of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Right now, the Federation of Northern Syria is committed to religious freedom for all in its territory, helping ensure that such aid is not needed in the future — and not needed again, and again, in the future — when stability eludes us because religious freedom has not been cultivated in the region. Yet the Federation must be empowered to hold on to its territory in order to ensure this religious freedom for future generations.

Our withdrawal from this part of Syria would betray our allies in the Middle East — once again. This type of betrayal is hard, if not impossible, to recover from. Further, abandoning them now could deal an incalculable blow to our professed concern for Christians being slaughtered by ISIS, and to our reputation as a supporter of religious freedom worldwide. We must not do it.

Watch Gen. Boykin talk about the potential withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria on Fox News:


Lt. General (Retired) Jerry Boykin is the Family Research Council’s Executive Vice President. Travis Weber is the Family Research Council’s Vice President for Policy.

Originally appeared at FRC.org. Reprinted with permission.

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  • AdamBGraham

    1) IS is in part a creation of the US to begin with. So if they retain power there, it’s partly our fault.

    2) Syria had a history of religious tolerance before western powers and efforts at regime change tore it apart. Assad himself and the Syrian people offered greater protection for Syrian Christians than US troops ever could.

    3) In Syria, Iran has been helping fight IS. Therefore, in this case, they are the good guys. Please stop repeating demonizations of Iran that are unfounded.

    4) Hard truth, the US military is not in charge of protecting any Christians. If they were, that would be enough justification to be in 3/4 of countries at one point or another.

    Withdrawal will have consequences. But it’s always the best option. Full stop.

    • ymhayuociotlc .

      Iran “the good guys”… come on. Do you support them getting Nukes as well if you believe they are the ” good guys”?

      • AdamBGraham

        I don’t support anyone having nukes, so no. But considering they don’t want them, aren’t trying to make them, and have sworn them off anyways, I don’t think there’s much threat of that.

        Meanwhile, Israel actively desires chaos in the Middle East with a weak Syria, Lebanon, and Iran whilst they all work to stop Islamic jihadis in Syria.

    • tz1


      Or should we sanction or invade China to protect the Christians there?

  • Nick Stuart

    Boykin & Weber fail to mention who’s supposed to go fight in the next Forever War they seem to be in favor of.

    In addition to the cost in US troops killed and maimed, the US has spent roughly $6 Trillion on Post-9/11 wars through FY2019 (Neta Crawford, Watson Institute, Brown University. Sorry, Stream commenting policy prohibits links).

    Noted Boykin & Weber didn’t say anything about where the money is going to come from. The US National debt right now is roughly $21.9 Trillion (that’s $179,000 per taxpayer).

    Who’s supposed to fight this war? Who’s supposed to pay for it? Us taxpayers with children in the military would like to know.

    • John3in1

      We’re not fighting. We’re just staying because Turkey would not dare to attack us. By simply staying, we protect the Federation of Northern Syria. By leaving, we allow them to be destroyed.

      • Nick Stuart

        Oh, well then if we’re just “staying.” Our troops won’t need to be armed will they?

        Whose kids do you want to send to “stay” in Syria. How do you propose it be paid for?

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