NORTHERN SYRIA - Russian and Turkish troops are now seen patrolling the streets of some cities in northern Syria. While the US has pulled back from the region, some American aid workers have gone in to help with the humanitarian crisis, and they say there is no ceasefire.
Retired Marine captain Brandon Wheeler has spent years getting to know the players in this region. He says the US gave up a huge opportunity in northern Syria.
"The fascism of Islamic fascism and the totalitarianism of Assad and Russia...those things are not going to be better ideas than freedom and self-governance," Wheeler explains. "So if you had played it out, and we had done what we did post World War II and built this place up, everybody would want to be here, it'd be the most prosperous successful place in the whole region. All of that may be lost."
Now, the other players are rushing in to fill the power vacuum left by the US exit.
Wheeler says, "What I can tell you for sure is whether it's Putin or Assad or the Salafi Islamists or Turkey, the one thing they can all agree on is that self-governance, individual freedom is a threat to all of them. So they will exterminate this project at all costs.
Dave Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers, has been leading a small team of medics in northern Syria since mid-October, and he believes the US still has a role to play.
Eubank says, "This was an emergent small democracy of a mixed-ethnic religious group that got along with each other, but they needed us in the middle to hold that together, and to keep ISIS down. These people fought and defeated ISIS here, but the US needs to stay also to stop Assad and his dictatorship from taking over this whole country."
Despite the extended "ceasefire", Turkish-backed forces are still killing the Kurdish people in this area.
Imagine what it would be like if every time you heard an airplane go overhead you had to worry about your car or your house vaporizing. That's what the people here in northern Syria are dealing with because of the ever-present threat of Turkish drones flying overhead. And it's changing the way they live. As CBN News reports from this war zone, we park our car underneath these trees if we need to because we try not to be too visible from the air.
We spoke with one Kurdish soldier who says he hopes the world will understand they are fighting not just for themselves.
"We could die at any time here from airstrike, from a drone, from artillery, but the most important thing for us is that the world sees that we are standing up against this tyranny from Erdogan," he says.
These men say the US involvement here is important not just for the Kurds, but for America as well.
Eubank says, "The US cannot solve the problems of Syria or anywhere else, but right here, we create a space where the Kurds and the Arabs and the Christians, the Yazidis and others can work something out and they were, and there's no guarantee it will work, but guaranteed it will fail if you leave."
Wheeler says, "A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. And if you can't secure freedom here, you can be sure that people who want to kill Americans, who have killed Americans, will come here in order to man, train, equip and prepare for the next war because they are committed."