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Syrian Kurds demonstrating in Qamishli, Syria, on Dec. 28, 2018, against threats from Turkey to carry out a fresh offensive following the U.S. decision to withdraw troops. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, President Trump announced the immediate and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. Then he backtracked, declaring that the U.S. withdrawal is contingent on benchmarks set by national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo: destroying ISIS and security guarantees for the Kurds in Syria. Now, the current course is unclear.

Why it matters: Although U.S. forces cannot stay in Syria forever, withdrawing them too hastily could create a vacuum for ISIS to fill. While Turkey has pledged to fight ISIS, Erdogan's agenda is eradicating Kurds, whom he calls "terrorists." If Turkey attacks, many Kurds would be killed or displaced.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) — Turkey's boots on the ground — is dominated by jihadis with al-Qaeda and al-Nusra roots. The FSA has committed atrocities elsewhere in Syria, beheading Kurds and mutilating the bodies of Kurdish female fighters. Without U.S. support and protection, Kurdish fighters will be no match for Turkey’s air power.

What's next: The U.S. could cut and run, which would undermine its credibility and risk a bloodbath. Or Washington could organize an international monitoring mission with outposts in Northeast Syria, aimed at deterring Turkey’s aggression. British and French forces would participate, as could personnel from other NATO countries. Middle Eastern countries could also join.

The bottom line: An international monitoring mission could help prevent a genocide of the Kurds and serve as a precedent for establishing peace and stability in other parts of Syria, enhancing both international cooperation and America’s role.

David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University, a former senior adviser to the UN Secretariat and U.S. Department of State, and the author of “The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East.”

Go deeper

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.