Small Wars Journal

Kurdistan After the U.S. Pullback

Kurdistan After the U.S. Pullback by Bernard-Henri Lévy - Wall Street Journal

Qamishli, Syria

It’s my first time in Kurdistan since the U.S. pulled back and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his proxies invaded last October. How is the situation on the ground? Is Islamic State reappearing? And is the West doing anything to support the Kurdish fighters who are its most reliable allies not only in Syria but in Iraq and Iran? I came here to see with my own eyes.

I’m in the northeastern corner of Syria, at a modern prison in Derik (known in Arabic as Al-Malikiyah), in a cell that smells like an old basement and is filled with stale, garishly colored bedding. A Turkish missile just landed close by, as if to warn the detainees to flee.

I find myself face to face with a dozen French jihadists who were, I was told, among the most vicious assassins of Raqqa. Here they look like poor wrecks in dirty sweatpants and polo shirts—except for one, who was wounded when his legs got caught in a scrap-metal trap. “We know who you are!” he shouts at me in his northern French accent. This is followed by a general clamor of pitiful complaints along the lines of, “Do you know who is going to try us and when?”

These monsters who terrorized the world are now cut off from it. Deprived of daylight, of cellphones, of the single television set that was taken away when the Turkish offensive began, they don’t even know that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, their leader, is dead, killed in an Oct. 26 U.S. air raid. They have but one thing in mind: not to end up in Baghdad to face capital punishment, and instead to return to France, the homeland of the rights of man, including the right to a legal defense…

Read on.