U.S. president Donald Trump in a surprise move on Oct. 7, 2019 ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria, effectively clearing the way for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to send his own troops into the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria.
Syrian Kurdish fighters are an important part of the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces group, which in late 2017 helped to liberate Ar Raqqa, the city in eastern Syria that had functioned as the de facto capital of the Islamic State terror group.
Now the United States has abandoned the Kurds. The Turkish army on Oct. 9, 2019 bombarded Kurdish towns near the Syrian-Turkish border. Today the AP reports that Turkish troops took control of at least one village from Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
But don’t expect a Turkish invasion to be painless for the Turks. The Kurds in northern Syria possess arguably the most important weapons of the eight-year Syrian civil war: anti-tank guided munitions. The Turks in the past have lost tanks in their periodic incursions into Syria.
They’re likely to lose more. “There will be lots of resistance if they cross the border,” Mazlum Kobani, commander of a Kurdish-led militia, told The New York Times in reference to the Turks. “We will not accept them on our land in any way.”
Insurgent groups in Syria began acquiring ATGMs in meaningful numbers around 2014 and deploying them against Syrian armor as well as to thwart attacks by Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops fighting Syrian government forces.
Chinese, Russian and European anti-tank missiles are in use in Syria. But arguably the most important missiles are American-made TOWs. With their 10-pound warheads and two-mile range, the wire-guided TOWs are among the most lethal weapons on the Syria battlefield.