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tv   On Assignment with Richard Engel  MSNBC  November 17, 2019 7:00pm-8:01pm PST

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wrong side of that. if donald trump were to be convicted, if any president's convicted in the senate that also is something that carries major consequences. i want to thank all of you for sending us great questions. i want to thank you for watching our recurring msnbc special. hope to see you again monday night and every weeknight, 6:00 p.m. eastern, on "the beat." this program includes violent and disturbing content, viewer discretion is advised. where is an agreement that says we have to stay in the middle east for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization, to protect the kurds? it never said that. we never agreed to protect the kurds.
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we fought with them for 3 1/2, 4 years. we never agreed to protect the kurds for the rest of their lives. turkey, syria, and all forms of the kurds, have been fighting for centuries. we have done them a great service, and we've done a great job for all of them. and now we're getting out. this is a story about a single decision that would reshape the map of the middle east, tarnish the united states' reputation around the world, threaten america's national security, and leave a staunch ally feeling like it was hung out to dry.
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the vast plains of northern syria are home to the kurds. they are a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture. but no country of their own. and they were close american allies. >> so we're going to the edge of the front line. >> reporter: for five years the kurds here in northern syria fought with the full backing of the american military against their common enemy, the terrorists of isis. >> there's no question that they were our vital partner in defeating isis. >> reporter: brett mcgurk ran counter isis strategy under presidents obama and trump. >> they never stopped fighting isis, and they did so at great cost. >> reporter: 11,000 kurdish men and women were killed.
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24,000 were injured. >> it was very clear for them at the very beginning that this would mean a fight for life or death. >> reporter: delar deriq is a kurd who has researched the long persecution of her people. >> it was a historical battle for survival, for not being wiped out from history. >> reporter: but in the end, the kurds believed it was worth it. they won. isis was defeated. and the kurds started to realize the dream they've had for over a century. they began to establish a permanent homeland in northern syria. a place 2 million kurds here could call their own. they even had a name for it, rojaba, meaning "the land where the sun sets." >> the kurdish people are often referred to as the largest nation without a state. they believe that this is their
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historic homeland, and it is their his historic homeland. >> reporter: but not everyone welcomed the birth of rojaba. turkey to the north saw a new, open, democratic, and proudly kurdish society blossoming on its border as a direct threat. but to do something about it, to destroy rojaba, turkey needed help. >> 103.5 fm -- >> reporter: it all started with a phone call. >> this is washington's top news. >> this sunday a democracy in crisis -- >> representing the whistle-blower who touched off the impeachment inquiry into president trump -- >> reporter: it was the end of a chaotic week in washington. president donald j. trump was facing an impeachment inquiry into abuse of power. that day, president trump spoke with turkey's president, recess sen tayyip erdogan. the call was expected to be routine. >> welcome to united nations,
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his excellency, recep tayyip erdogan. >> reporter: but erdogan had a very specific goal in mind. he just briefed the united nations about his plan to invade northern syria. he wanted to clear out kurdish fighters from a strip of syrian territory along the turkish border. he said the kurdish fighters there were just terrorists. the land turkey wanted to take over and resettle with a new population was rojaban. many considered erdogan's plan a blueprint to ethnically cleanse the kurds. on their fateful phone call, president trump opened the door for erdogan to invade. and ordered u.s. troops to get out of the way. an apparently off-the-cuff decision that set off shock
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waves. >> president trump clearly gave a green light to this intervention, and i don't -- maybe he didn't fully understand what this meant, who would be crossing the border, who are these people, maybe he didn't ask his experts. it's pretty clear to me he was not prepared for that phone call. it just demonstrated no knowledge from the commander in chief from the oval office level of the situation on the ground. >> reporter: but erdogan knew the situation on the ground. and he didn't waste any time. the day after the call, turkey deployed troops and armor to its southern border. and on president trump's orders, u.s. troops pulled back. >> i believe that was the only thing that was preventing them from coming across the border. >> reporter: general joseph votel led u.s. central command, responsible for all u.s. military operations in the middle east. >> the departure of u.s. troops from along the border certainly
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made the turkish incursion inevitable. when they departed, then the turks acted, as we would have expected they would. >> reporter: president trump seemed to think he had it all under control. he tweeted that turkey wouldn't go too far, that he'd keep turkey in check with his great and unmatched wisdom. turkey began its invasion of northern syria three days after the phone call with president trump. turkey pounded kurdish villages with fighter jets and sent in its army, the second biggest in nato. turkey showed little restraint in what it was calling "operation peace spring." apparently undeterred by president trump's unmatched wisdom. as the death toll climbed, criticism erupted across washington and across party lines.
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with accusations that president trump had done something profoundly unamerican, abandoning a brother in arms. >> if we leave the kurds behind, in their mind, in the eyes of the world, good luck having anybody help us in the future to fight isis. >> to just abandon them like that so the turks can come in and slaughter them is not just immoral, it taints our reputation all over the world. >> what we have done to the kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of american history. >> reporter: with forceful opposition from across the political spectrum, president trump tried to slam on the brakes. on the second day of the invasion, he dashed off a threatening letter telling president erdogan to slow down. let's work out a good deal, you don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and i don't want to be responsible for destroying the turkish economy, and i will, don't be a tough guy, don't be a fool, i will call you later.
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>> the letter pretty much speaks for itself here in terms of that. it certainly didn't seem to be an effective approach. >> reporter: even president trump's most vocal supporters were now shouting betrayal. >> wipe out the kurds? are you kidding me? again we're abandoning our most loyal allies who do all our fighting. all we did is arm them and they did all the work and now we say, good luck. good luck surviving. >> reporter: the kurds were not surviving. they were dying in the hundreds. while american troops were nearby but on strict orders to stand down, not to intervene, not to help their allies. >> the reason the kurds chose the americans time and time again was because they trusted us. it makes it very difficult for those who have served here to watch this occur. it doesn't seem very honorable to me to step away from your
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partners and then to allow some of this to happen. >> reporter: this funeral was for kurds who fought alongside american troops. they thought that alliance was strong enough to support their dream. a homeland for their people. a dream they'd fought for. against their neighbors, against isis, against the odds. only to lose everything when they were betrayed by someone they thought was their friend. when we come back, what president trump's surprise decision unleashed. >> is there ethnic cleansing now? has it begun? any comments doug? yeah. only pay for what you need with liberty mutual. only pay for what you need with liberty mutual. con liberty mutual solo pagas lo que necesitas. only pay for what you need... only pay for what you need. liberty. liberty. liberty. liber♪y
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we were put into this battle, interjected. it was supposed to an 30-day period, and we've been there for many, many years. the worst mistake that the united states has ever made was going into the middle east. it's a tough situation. >> reporter: after allowing turkey to invade syria, president trump made it clear he was washing his hands of the middle east and the kurds. >> we're getting out of the endless wars. have to do it. >> reporter: with u.s. forces ordered to get out of the way, turkey's invasion of northern syria went into overdrive. we headed for the front lines to see firsthand the consequences of the sudden change in u.s. policy. "operation peace spring" as turkey call the it was systematically destroying
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kurdish towns and villages. and driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. we came across a makeshift medical staging area. the wound wednesday just being treated by the side of the road. the turks seemed to be bombing anything that moved. here at the front lines, it is mostly deserted. the kurds are trying to stay off these exposed roads. two rounds came in over our heards. behind you, behind you, behind you. as we pulled back, we saw what the rounds had done. a single vehicle was in flames, the driver dead. we didn't see any weapons or fighters inside. all around us, kurds were fleeing what they said was indiscriminate shelling. this family had loaded up
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everything they had in the back of a pickup truck. they had 1,000 syrian lire, the equivalent of $2 in their pockets, and no plan. she said they don't know where they going, they just are leaving the war zone, they said any place is better than there. >> the kurds have no protection. and already hundreds have died, several hundred thousand have been displaced. >> reporter: david phillips is a veteran american diplomat and the author of "the great betrayal: how america abandoned the kurds." >> syrian kurds love the united states, they love america. not only because we protected them, but because of what we represent. we ostensibly stand for human rights and democracy, and this is what they aspire to as well. syrian kurds now feel betrayed, embittered, they've been abandoned. the blood of these victims is on trump's hands. >> reporter: this family traveled over 100 miles to escape the killing and found refuge in an empty school.
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"turkey wants to get rid of us and trump is letting it happen," cried this woman. the children were exhausted by their exodus as the new reality set in. president erdogan, this family told me, was achieving his goal of pushing the kurds of northern syria far away from the turkish border. trump's phone call had triggered a humanitarian crisis. thousands of kurds fled to camps across the border in iraq. around 200,000 kurds were now seeking shelter wherever they could find it. >> the kurdish people interpret trump's decision as a major historic act of backstabbing. the way in which this decision
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has been taken, without consulting the people on the ground, just shows to the kurdish people how little they are valued as basic -- as human beings. >> reporter: azima, a veteran kurdish command history like thousands of kurdish women fought in the battles to defeat isis, told me she worried this day would come. "i respect turkey, and i respect the turks, but i do not respect the turkish state. they are like isis, they have similar views." the commander of kurdish forces, general mazlum, was equally worried. >> translator: erdogan wants to cleanse the area of kurds. he wants there to be no kurds along his border. >> do you think president trump understands the consequences of what his actions are doing? >> translator: i assume that he doesn't understand the consequences of this decision or
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doesn't have the full picture. >> reporter: then suddenly, a week into the invasion, president trump wanted to play peacemaker. sending vice president pence to broker a cease-fire with turkey's erdogan. >> my fellow americans, i greet you this morning from the white house to announce a major breakthrough toward achieving a better future for syria and for the middle east. it's been a long time. this was an outcome created by us, the united states, and nobody else. no other nation. very simple. and we're willing to take blame, and we're also willing to take credit. >> reporter: despite the gloating, the fighting never stopped. but the tactics changed. turkey adopted a new, highly controversial war plan. it unleashed thousands of militiamen into northern syria. many of them were hard-core islamic radicals there to do
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turkey's bidding. >> so they're using as their infantry force this unruly mix of syrian fighters who are responsible for all sorts of atrocities and war crimes. >> reporter: u.s. officials said the militias included former isis and al qaeda members. and they acted like it. the fighters were proud of what they were doing and posted videos showing themselves pointing a single finger in the air, a symbol often used by isis, and chanting "baqia," an isis rallying cry meaning "the caliphate lives on." the militias carried out summary executions. a prominent kurdish politician was targeted, stabbed, beaten, shot in the head and paback, an left dead on the roadside. she was 34 years old. back in the united states, president trump was painting a different picture of what was
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happening. >> this is a situation where everybody is happy. and i'm happy because there's no fighting. we can bring certainly most of our people back home for the first time in many years. >> reporter: but just days later, a group of militiamen captured a 26-year-old kurdish fighter from kobani. they laughed and jeered at her. how's rojaba, they asked, called her a pig, threatened to slit her throat. are the kurdish people happy now? as president trump says? >> translator: the kurdish people are not happy. the things that have happened so far are in turkey's interest and against the kurdish people. >> is there ethnic cleansing now? has it begun? >> translator: it has started and it has reached dangerous levels. if it continues, the ethnic cleansing will be complete. >> we always speak as if it is the fate of the kurdish people to live like this, as if this
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current war of the turkish army was inevitable. genocide is not inevitable. we live in a world in which we can actively do things to prevent these kinds of atroci atrocities from happening. >> reporter: ethnic cleansing, deliberately displacing a population, is a crime against humanity. and the kurds said it was happening to them, with permission from the president of the united states. >> people directly hold president trump and the united states administration accountable and responsible for the atrocities that are now being committed against the civilians. coming up, it's not the first time the kurdish people have faced long odds or abandonment by their american allies. i'm ládeia, and there's more to me than hiv.
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stretched across the middle east, north africa, and into europe. the kurdish people lived right in the center of it. but the ottoman empire lost the first world war and the victors carved up the spoils. the kurdish population was largely divided among four countries we know today as turkey, syria, iraq, and iran. without a state of their own, the kurds became easy targets. in the 1980s, saddam hussein, then america's ally, was on a mission to eradicate the kurds. saddam used a chemical cocktail of sarin and mustard gas to kill nearly 5,000 kurdish men, women, and children. it was part of a campaign known as the anfal, meaning "the
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spoils." >> systematic genocide. thousands of kurdish villages along the iran/iraq bored wear destroyed. >> reporter: the united states condemned the atrocities but continued to help saddam even as the massacres continued. the kurds had been betrayed. but they gave america another chance. in 1991, president george herbert walker bush invaded iraq. >> saddam hussein started this cruel war. tonight the battle has been joined. >> reporter: but president bush did not want to send american troops all the way to baghdad, fearing they would get stuck there. instead, he called on saddam's people to bring down the dictator. >> after the gulf war in 1991, president george h.w. bush called on the kurds to rise up against the dictator, saddam hussein. they rose up. when saddam counterattacked with
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helicopter gunships, we left them to be slaughtered. >> reporter: it was another betrayal. but the kurds didn't give up on the u.s. >> american and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations. >> reporter: in 2003, president george w. bush set out to do what his father had been afraid of, to go to baghdad and get rid of saddam hussein for good. the kurds welcomed american troops in iraq as liberators. it was the beginning of a partnership that would continue for a decade and prove to be critical to u.s. interests in the middle east. the alliance would become essential when the united states called on the kurds to tackle a new threat. isis. the most brutal terrorist group the world had ever faced. by 2014, the islamic extremists were carving out a murderous
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state in the middle east. they called it the caliphate. and no one seemed able to stop them. but that all changed in a little kurdish town called kobani. isis fighters attacked kobani with everything they had. the battles were street to street. but the kurds refused to surrender. >> this battle of kobani ended up being a massive turning point in the overall campaign. and so from that moment we had a little toe hold in syria to twin so fight back against what was the heart of the isis caliphate. >> reporter: i was with the kurdish fighters in kobani, men and women on the front lines. that's how i first met azima. she was one of the kurdish commanders. and she showed me just how close the enemy was.
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>> she's saying when they come, the isis fighters come in waves. not just one and two they try and infiltrate but 40, 50 fighters will come and try and swarm into the building. >> reporter: she told me isis was aiming to kill everyone who was fighting here, especially the female fighters. but we were resolute, and we fought back. "we defended this place with our lives until the last drop of blood," azima said. "we lost many comrades." kobani turned out to be the beginning of a new kind of war for america in the middle east. with the kurds doing the fighting. over the course of five years, the kurds expanded their ranks and partnered with elite american special forces. together they were devastatingly lethal. killing tens of thousands of isis fighters. as centcomm commander, general
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votel led the military campaign that defeated the caliphate. >> the syrian kurds were absolutely essential to our success in syria. >> reporter: american troops took almost no casualties. the kurds sacrificed far more. >> we cannot lose sight of the fact that they lost 11,000 men and women throughout the course of this campaign. this is a staggering number. and we could not have accomplished what we did without their support. they took that fight on for the benefit of the coalition and for the world. >> reporter: with isis or dash as it's known in arabic defeated, it was time for the kurds to celebrate what they hoped would be a new beginning. >> no dash, no dash! >> history does not have to repeat itself for the kurdish people. it is nobody's fate to be left alone. it is nobody's fate to live without rights, to live under constant threat of genocide and violence and injustice.
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>> reporter: with isis gone, the kurds started to build rojaba, their homeland in northern syria. with american protection on lands they had taken back from isis. markets reopened. the area was stable, pro-american, and peaceful. >> when people will tell these to their children, they will speak about this very unique experiment that they have built up. they will talk about how women heroically defended entire cities. >> in rojaba, they established local systems of self government, they were democratic, it was feminist, women occupied 50% of all the senior positions. >> the people had established a hopeful system, a system that looks to the future, that has a vision, a democratic vision. >> reporter: the kurds set up their own security forces. even schools, teaching in
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kurdish a language the syrian government had banned. >> why do you think the kurds fought so hard against isis? >> kurds are very stubborn people, and they like their land, their home. so every time, they will fight. >> reporter: nishti marad wasn't a fighter but a schoolteacher. she came back to her small family farm outside kobani after isis was driven out. >> what was it like when you came back? >> when i came, there was many destroyed towns. everything was different. everything was like it was changed. you feel that you have to start from the beginning. and we did that. we started from zero. >> happy to be home? >> home sweet home. >> reporter: the kurds'
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happiness would not last long. they thought they had earned the right to a homeland. but it all came apart with one phone call between presidents erdogan and trump. >> it's dead, it's gone. the experiment in self government was destroyed when turkey started bombing and inviting. the u.s. has few friends in the world. the syrian kurds are our allies and our friends. we recruited them to fight against isis. you don't recruit a people, get them to fight your battle, then throw them under the bus. it was truly obscene, what trump did to them. >> the kurds, who are our friends, and turkey's our friend. sometimes you have to let them fight. like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight, then you pull them apart. >> people feel stabbed in the back, basically. because the turkish state has been given green light to attack the region, to occupy it, to possibly ethnically cleanse it, and to commit atrocities.
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>> reporter: if you think the fate of the kurds is just their problem, think again. when we return, isis sees its moment for a comeback. there were about 100 isis prisoners from different countries. as soon as the round went off, they saw their opportunity. in the chaos they headed right for this door. an help you quit slow turkey. along with support, chantix is proven to help you quit. with chantix you can keep smoking at first and ease into quitting. chantix reduces the urge so when the day arrives, you'll be more ready to kiss cigarettes goodbye. when you try to quit smoking, with or without chantix, you may have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. stop chantix and get help right away if you have changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions, seizures, new or worse heart or blood vessel problems, sleepwalking,
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>> can the kurds keep protecting these facilities? >> translator: so far there's been stability at the prisons but there is a big danger that some will escape. if they do, there will be trouble. they are terrorists and we know what they're capable of. >> reporter: the guards told me if they had to choose between defending their families under attack from turkey and its militi militias, or guarding the prison, it would be a quick decision. some of the prisoners seem to sense that times were changing. >> everybody have a good feeling. everybody have a good feeling that somebody else will take over here. >> reporter: one prison was directly hit by shells that witnesses said were fired from turkey. the round exploded right here in the prison yard. there were about 100 isis prisoners from different countries. as soon as the round went off, they saw their opportunity, and in the chaos they headed right for this door.
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some of the very terrorists the united states had worked so hard to defeat and capture were on the loose. but there was one whose movements were being followed very closely. >> last night the united states brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. abu bakr al baghdadi is dead. he died like a dog. he died like a coward. the world is now a much safer place. >> reporter: after years hunting the founder and commander of isis, president trump didn't try to disguise his happiness. >> capturing or killing baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. >> reporter: the u.s. had finally got him. when eight american helicopters swooped down on baghdadi's hideout. the pentagon released limited
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footage of the assault showing u.s. forces firing on what military officials said was a group of armed fighters. and american commandos from the army's secretive delta force raiding baghdadi's compound. president trump described the scene in vivid details which his own military commanders declined to confirm were true. >> he died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. >> reporter: u.s. forces leveled the isis leader's last hideout with an air strike. satellite images revealed the unassuming rural compound surrounded by olive trees before the raid and the rubble that was left after it. we sent our cameras to the scene. baghdadi's final refuge just three miles from the turkish border had become a crater. >> i think the death of any of these iconic terrorist leaders is always an important milestone. psychologically it's a blow to
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isis. it certainly is confidence-building and, you know, sends a good message to those who have been victimizeded by people like al baghdadi. >> reporter: abu bakr al baghdadi had been fighting against americans for over a decade. he founded isis and proclaimed himself the commander of all muslim faithful. his group would murder tens of thousands of people, most of his victims fellow muslims. it made baghdadi the most wanted terrorist in the world. >> it's a landmark event. and baghdadi was a unique terrorist leader. he institutionalized genocide against minority groups. he institutionalized enslavement of women, rape. so his removal i don't think can be underestimated. he'll be very difficult to replace. >> reporter: the u.s. had a key ally in the hunt for baghdadi, an ally that was critical to
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bringing him down -- once again that ally was the kurds. >> how was baghdadi's security, how did he protect himself? >> translator: baghdadi took extreme security precautions. he never used high-tech communications. any place he was in was in a communications blackout. >> reporter: kurdish commander general mazlum had been helping american intelligence track baghdadi. he told me the inside story. general mazlum had a spy in baghdadi's inner circle. >> translator: he was a security official, a personal security official for baghdadi himself in charge of baghdadi's movements. >> reporter: mazlum says while many wanted baghdadi dead, for the spy it was personal. >> translator: his relatives were severely mistreated by isis, and he wanted to take revenge against isis and baghdadi himself. >> reporter: the spy had been meeting with baghdadi for five months, always in the area of
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his last safehouse. but u.s. intelligence demanded that the spy prove his bona fides, that he really had access to the terror leader he claimed. >> translator: we took two steps to confirm the credibility of the source. first, we asked them for information regarding baghdadi himself. and he brought -- i don't want to go into details. >> what did he bring? clothing, a comb? >> translator: he brought underwear. when we analyzed it through dna, we confirmed that this stuff belongs to baghdadi itself. it was first step to trust this source profoundly. >> what did the cia say to you when they tested this stuff and it showed positive? >> translator: after that, the cia took this more seriously. they began to work hard at the highest level. >> reporter: the spy provided
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the u.s. with the layout of baghdadi's compound and how it was guarded. he was even there when u.s. forces launched their daring raid and left with american special ops. >> in terms of the role of the syrian kurds in the baghdadi raid, they played a critical role in some of the human intelligence and information that helped us identify where this man was. so we could go get him. so i think they -- again, they played a key role in this, and we have to acknowledge that. >> reporter: for president trump, the kurds seemed to be an afterthought. >> this raid was impeccable. and could only have taken place with the acknowledgement and help of certain other nations and people. i want to thank the nations of russia, turkey, syria, and iraq. and i also want to thank the syrian kurds for certain support they were able to give us.
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>> reporter: it was a snub the kurds found more than just a little insulting. the kurds couldn't understand why president trump didn't seem to care what happened to them after all they'd done. they'd lost 11,000 men and women in the fight against isis. they'd helped deliver baghdadi to the u.s. military on a silver platter. and the united states still needed the kurds. even with baghdadi gone, the threat from isis remained. in packed prisons and detention camps, seething isis supporters were determined to regroup, undeterred by the death of their leader. "isis will only get stronger," threatened this woman. coming up, living through the aftermath of turkey's invasion. and with the u.s. leaving, a new power player moves in. only pay for what you need with liberty mutual. con liberty mutual solo pagas lo que necesitas.
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almost a month after turkey's invasion of northern syria, there was no letup in the fighting. the kurds were, once more, forced to defend the land they called home. the aftershocks from president trump's decision which allowed turkey to invade continued to reverberate. only an hour's drive from the front lines, in the town of kobani, nishti morad, the schoolteacher, had decided to stay. she wasn't ready to give up the dream of a kurdish homeland, rojaba. >> i think rojaba is a region for people to live in peace. forrozhaba is a region for people to live in peace, a controlled area for the kurds. we just wanted our rights. >> she was brave. she was also nervous. she checked for news, not easy, as cellphone service was largely
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disrupted. she was trying to figure out where the feared militias would attack next. while the waiting went on, she worked hard to try to make life as normal as possible, keeping to daily routines to keep herself and her relatives calm. but nishti had made a big decision. >> i decided if turkey came here, i would be here and i will fight. so i'll fight to the end. >> turkey's president erdogan wasn't just invading and destroying rozhoba and the kurdish way of life. he planned to resettle the area with 3 million arab refugees living in turkey. they showed off models of schools they planned to build for the refugee arrivals. >> turkey has 18 to 20 million
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ethnic kurds as turkish citizens. erdogan was concerned that the kurds in turkey are going to want something similar to rozhava. erdogan wanted to strangle the baby in its cradle by destroying rozhava and preventing turkey's kurds from aspiring to the despisame. >> despite all that, president erdogan was invited to the president. ethnic cleansing was not on the agenda. >> we're grateful to the president and the citizens of turkey for their cooperation. in the tonight struggle against terrorism, he fights it like we do. >> outside the white house, they hadn't forgotten what was happening to the kurds. [ crowd chanting ] >> we never promised the syrian
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kurds we would be there photographforever. but we did promise we at least wouldn't totally abandon them on the whim of one night. that's what ended up happening. it devalues the value of an american handshake and american commitment around the world. >> but leaving the middle east, no matter the cost, had always been president trump's one consistent message. >> we want to bring our troops back home. it's been many, many years. it's been decades in many cases. we want to bring our troops back home. and i got elected on that. >> it was always a reliable applause line. >> bring our soldiers back home. bring our soldiers back home. >> so it was all the more surprising when president trump seemed to go back on that promise too. he decided there was a good reason to keep american troops in syria after all. it just wasn't to protect the kurds. >> we want to bring our soldiers home. but we did leave soldiers
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because we're keeping the oil. i like oil. we're keeping the oil. >> president trump became so interested in securing syria's oil fields that he ordered more american troops and heavy weapons to go to syria for the new mission. so american troops weren't coming home. >> these are small facilities. our legal basis for being in syria is isis, not to protect oil. so the mission is very unclear. >> president trump tweeted in what seemed like an afterthought, if the kurds wanted protection, perhaps it is time for the kurds to start heading to the oil region. a desert where no kurds had ever lived. president trump was effectively asking the kurds to abandon rozhava while under attack from an invasion he allowed to happen and ethnically cleanse themselves. >> that was an incredible thing for an american president to say, that maybe kurds should move from their areas into the
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desert where there's oil because we'll have u.s. forces at the oil fields. it's a remarkable statement, the kind of thing you might hear from erdogan, not an american president. >> nishti and her if my wefamil furious. >> i really blame the american people for choosing such a crazy person to lead the greatest country in the world. >> and another country stood to benefit. in the confusion created by president trump's zigzagging policy and abandonment of an ally, russia moved in to fill the gap. vladimir putin saw a chance to make himself the new kingmaker in syria and perhaps throughout the middle east. >> it will now be russia and turkey and perhaps iran who will make the decisions about what happens in that part of the world. and our ability to do that has
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been diminished. >> so too has america's reputation. nishti stayed in kobani. but the self-run kurdish enclave she hoped to build, rozhava, is gone. and so is trust among the kurds. the american allies now left living with the consequences of an american betrayal. [ crying ] >> i'm just wondering what is america doing. they left us to the death. we are dying here. but nobody cares. if you were us, what would you do? my people, the children are getting killed. i don't know what to say. >> and now people are saying,
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