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Syria’s Kurdish Forces Hold Back the Tides

But Without a Political Solution, War and Trauma Will Rush Right Back In

SDF fighters in Deir Al Zor, Syria, March 2019 Rodi Said / Reuters

In December 2019, just two months after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew most U.S. forces from Syria, I crossed into the country from Iraq for my seventh visit since August 2017. A Turkish offensive against the Kurds had upended northeastern Syria in October, making a region that had been an experiment in democratic self-rule at the time of my last visit, in May 2019, an uneasy patchwork of competing dominions. I expected to find signs of the Turkish presence everywhere, along with Russian and Syrian regime checkpoints at every pass; perhaps local people would be shuttered indoors, waiting to see what the great powers would force on their future.

What I found instead was at once heartening and devastating. Some scenes of hardship were indelible: children, forced from their homes by the Turkish offensive, now sat out of school in freezing, hastily constructed camps, without coats and with their small bare

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