The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria is over. Around 1,000 American soldiers retreated from the largest US military base in the region over the weekend under orders received from President Trump. The controversial decision to leave Syria was made as Turkey ramps up its offensive on Kurdish allies who have fought against ISIS alongside US forces for years.
During the day, a video filmed by the Kurdish news agency on Monday has become viral. It shows a convoy of U.S. military vehicles driving through Qamishli and residents hurling abuse and potatoes at the soldiers as they withdrew.
Angry residents hurled potatoes at the vehicles, shouting ‘No America’ and ‘America liar,’ in English. One vehicle backed up over the sidewalk, trying to get away from the people. Videos shared on social media also showed protesters attempting to block a 70-strong military convoy through Tal Tamr.
But the central figure of the video is a U.S. Special Forces soldier wearing a bright green patch bearing the letters YPJ. It stands for the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units. This act made an apparent show of solidarity for Kurdish fighters. The YPJ is one of the main two armed forces in Rojava, the other being the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) militia, which includes both men and women.
It’s not unusual for U.S. special forces operators to wear patches of partner forces. The patches of Kurdish militia were banned since 2016 after they inflamed tensions between the US and Turkey because of the Kurdish YPJ/YPG militia. The militia is considered a terrorist group by the Turkish government and at the same time, they were a key American ally against the Islamic State in Syria.
“Wearing those YPG patches was unauthorized, and it was inappropriate and corrective action has been taken,” then-Army Col. Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman, told reporters in May 2016. “And we have communicated as much to our military partners and our military allies in the region.”