The announcement from the White House on Wednesday that President Trump has decided to abruptly pull out over 2000 American troops from Syria, has not only blindsided military brass and key strategists, but has confounded a stunned electorate.
Trump campaigned on the pledge of eradicating the Islamic State (ISIS) terror organization and to work towards thwarting its hopes of creating a territorial caliphate in Syria. For the last year and a half, US troops along with our Kurdish allies have fought valiantly to defeat the pernicious objectives of ISIS.
The president has taken pride in acknowledging the fact that the terror rein of ISIS has vanquished and has been quite vocal in adding that to his litany of accomplishments since taking office.
The problem, however, is that Syria is a crowded international arena. The relatively small country, north of Israel, not only has American forces, but they are joined by the Russians, the Iranians, Assad’s henchmen and now the threat of a Turkish invasion.
ISIS thrives on pockets of north eastern Syria where the international powers that be are no where to be found. For those not in the know, ISIS is alive and well and a possible resurgence is looming in such places as Raqqa and elsewhere. To ISIS, a military vacuum is fertile ground to recoup their losses and come back stronger than ever. Today, there are an estimated 30,000 ISIS operatives in Syria and the surrounding areas.
The POTUS in a message on Twitter said the United States had “defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”
Since before taking office Trump pledged to conclude the campaign against ISIS and questioned the value of costly and dangerous military missions overseas.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary.”
Even though the US will continue to maintain troops in Iraq with the capability of launching strikes into Syria, many analysts said a withdrawal of ground forces will please US enemies by clearing the way in Syria for the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. A US departure could leave allies questioning Washington’s commitment, reduce US awareness of dynamics on the ground and diminish Washington’s influence in the region, according to a CNN report.
Most experts have weighed in with strong objections to the rapid pull out of US troops, considering the fact that ISIS is still a major terrorist purveyor. Surely, the president cannot believe that the ultimate and long-term defeat of ISIS will come as a result of a campaign against them by Iran, who just happens to be the US’s arch foe.
Nicholas Heras of the Center for a New American Security issued a eerie warning when he said, “The decision, even before ISIS is defeated on the battlefield, is tempting a massive resurgence of ISIS by the end of this year.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis has also suggested that a precipitous withdrawal could enable militants to make a comeback, as they did in Iraq before the Islamic State’s rise in 2014.
“Getting rid of the caliphate doesn’t mean you then blindly say, ‘Okay, we got rid of it,’ march out, and then wonder why the caliphate comes back,” Mattis told reporters in September.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said that “the Coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over.”
“Trump himself said on the campaign trail that he may not have liked being in Iraq, but Obama ruined a lot by pulling out too early and not thinking about what would happen next,” said David Adesnik, the director of research and a Syria analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Here he is ignoring precisely that lesson.”
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute said that Trump’s decision is “extraordinarily shortsighted and naive” and added that the decision will not only leave Iran hawks — including lawmakers and Cabinet members such as national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — feeling “betrayed,” but also plant the seeds for rebellion among Republican ranks.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a proponent of Trump’s policy agenda said that he is “pretty annoyed” at the president’s decision and referred to it as “Obama-like.”
And let’s not forget that America’s chief ally in the Middle East, Israel will now have to go it alone in the burgeoning battle against a resurgence in deadly terrorism that continues to plague the volatile region.
For these reasons and many more, the Trump administration needs to rethink this onerous decision before the perennial powder keg once again reignites and wreaks havoc across the civilized world.
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