US forces drive armoured vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey on April 28, 2017. File photo: AFP
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump said he was considering withdrawing American soldiers from Syria. It's actually past time for him to consider sending more troops and funds into that country.
The US contingent is deployed in the northern part of Syria, near the border with Turkey, as part of an international coalition battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, or ISIS.
Northern Syria is admittedly not a place most Americans are familiar with, but this is where a joint Kurdish-Arab force, the SDF, backed by the coalition has been hunting down ISIS fighters and destroying their hideouts since 2013.
The early victories were covered heavily by the US press, but those events have started to fade from public memory now that the so-called Caliphate has, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist.
The disappearance of the military campaign from the 24-hour US news cycle, however, is hardly an accurate reflection of its relevance in the grand scheme of things.
The 25-30 percent of Syrian territory controlled by the Kurds and their Arab allies cannot overcome the ravages of the war on the strength of a 2,000-strong US military presence and a shaky White House commitment.
This swathe of Syria needs the unwavering support of the American people and their president because it faces existential threats from three sides: the Turks in the north, the Assad government in the south and ISIS remnants in their pockets.
Trump seems to know instinctively what to say to whip up a crowd of supporters. Imagine the high road he could take by narrating real tales of heroism from Syria and Iraq instead of rallying his base with tirades against unauthorised immigration and the "fake news" media.
Americans from across the political spectrum need to know there is an enclave of progressive culture and values in Syria heavily dependent on their generosity, and that the local forces keeping the peace there deserve US support for the long haul.
In the unlikely event that Trump changes tack and begins to brag about his support for the Kurds in Manbij instead of disparaging Hispanic migrants in California, his political opponents and critics could find themselves in a (pleasant moral) quandary.
But in the end, standing by a non-sectarian and tolerant population comprising Kurds, Arabs and other minorities in distant Syria is a cause that most certainly would unite Americans instead of polarise opinion.
On their own, the local politicians of northern Syria, including the area Syrian Kurds call Rojava, can do little to persuade Republican and Democratic politicians halfway around the globe to commit more American forces and unfreeze funds meant for recovery efforts.
For, these days the lobbying firms and advocacy groups of Washington's K Street are reportedly too busy cornering big chunks of the Qatar-GCC propaganda war market to do any pro-bono work.
To them, whether some American allies are guarding the ramparts in a remote corner of the Middle East presumably matters little as long as their own fat profits and bonuses are safe.
Nevertheless, ordinary Americans can do their own homework to appreciate the symbolic value of the Syrian territory under the SDF's control, the importance of thwarting the ambitions of Damascus and Ankara, and the urgency of rebuilding the area before young men lose hope altogether.
It reflects poorly on US trustworthiness that the SDF's political wing, SDC, is hedging its bets by tentatively reaching out to Bashar al-Assad's regime, as both have a common enemy in the Turks who took control of Afrin, a Kurdish town in Syria's northwest, with the help of allied local militias earlier this year.
The SDC officials know only too well that any agreement with Damascus on a "road-map for a democratic, decentralized Syria" would probably not be worth the paper it is written on. At the same time, they cannot totally avoid contact with Syrian administration officials given the size of the territory under their control.
In the worst-case scenario, the SDF forces wake up one morning to find the US security umbrella gone and are forced to fend for themselves when Turkish forces trundle in to grab the oil and gas fields and the dam on the Euphrates at Tabqa and install their own puppet regime.
The Americans failed to halt Iraq's coercive tactics against the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Peshmerga after last September's referendum in their eagerness to preserve the little clout they had in Baghdad.
Next, they did nothing to stop Turkish government forces and their allies from entering Syrian territory and seizing Afrin, in the process displacing thousands of civilians.
The precarious situation in northern Syria offers the US administration a chance to make amends for its perceived betrayals as well as to walk the talk. It could start with beefing up its military presence there and spending more money on recovery and reconstruction.
As for President Trump, he should resume talking about "withdrawing soldiers" from Syria. But it should be strictly in regard to the Turkish, Russian and Iranian forces that are not part of the international coalition.
This is how he can make America great again.
Arnab Neil Sengupta is an independent journalist and commentator on the Middle East.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.