Despite Trump’s Announcement, the US Won’t Be Leaving Syria Anytime Soon

Just a few weeks ago, President Trump surprised Americans with the sudden announcement that the United States would be withdrawing its military from Syria. Taking to Twitter, Trump explained that the Islamic State had been defeated, marking the fulfillment of the U.S. mission in Syria. He went on to add that all 2,000 troops would be gone within 30 days — but, as it turns out, this won’t be happening anytime soon.

Much like Trump’s other unilateral decisions announced via tweet, the U.S. withdrawal from Syria won’t be playing out as advertised — if at all.

First came the order signed by outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which failed to lay out a time frame for the pull out and led officials to later admit that the process would likely take at least several months.

This appears to have been a bit overly optimistic, though. This past weekend White House national security adviser John Bolton, speaking publicly in Israel, shot down Trump’s assertions and promises about Syria.

Contradicting the president’s victory declaration over the Islamic State, Bolton explained that while the militant group is largely defeated, it still maintains a handful of strongholds that cannot be ignored.

That, however, appears to be secondary to Bolton’s other concern: What happens to the locals trained and armed by the United States in the area, specifically the Kurdish militias?

Though Trump has stated that he’s confident that increased Turkish military activity in Syria — which would be inevitable were the United States to fully withdraw — would effectively quash the remaining Islamic State presence, this would necessarily put the fate of the Kurds in question.

Presently, in northern Syria, a group calling itself the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, has wrested territory away from the Islamic State and has more or less established an autonomous state tentatively called Kurdistan. Turkey, however, has long considered the YPG a terrorist group and a threat to Turkish security; they have not been coy about their desire to curb the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state.

This puts the United States in an especially precarious position: Do we leave our fellow allies, whom we’ve poured a great deal of resources into, to likely be massacred by Turkey? Can the United States successfully secure a meaningful promise from Turkey to leave the YPG alone? If not, does the United States have the clout necessary to put sufficient political pressure on Turkey to achieve these aims? Worse, if it doesn’t, are we willing to risk a military confrontation with Turkey, who — it should be remembered — is considered a NATO ally?

John Bolton is in Turkey this week hoping to find the answers to some of these questions. In all likelihood, Turkey would never agree to leaving the YGP unmolested — since they anticipate doing so will lead to the formation of an autonomous Kurdistan and a new military rival. Given the rocky U.S. diplomatic relations with Turkey in recent times, it’s doubtful political pressure would achieve such an agreement, as well.

If Bolton’s requirements for a full withdrawal of troops hold true, then it’s essentially a foregone conclusion. American troops will, for better or worse, remain in Syria at least until 2020 — if only as a bulwark against Turkey.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

43 comments

Jelica R
Jelica R8 days ago

Just to be clear: MP is for military police, not for member of parliament

SEND
Jelica R
Jelica R8 days ago

Spoiler alert to all hawks: Kurds are negotiating with Syrian government. Russian MPs are already in Mosul ...
Stay tuned...

SEND
Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini10 days ago

Brian F
I can fully agree with you that American interventions in the Middle East and Libya tend to have been ignorant and bullying disasters. But in this particular case, see what I've said to Paul B. There are ways and ways of getting out of a military coalition and Trump's unilateral decision is NOT among them.

SEND
Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini10 days ago

Paul B
errr.... you say 'it is us and us alone keeping peace'. What peace? In the whole of the Middle East? Alone? No Paul, in Afghanistan and Iraq always in coaltiion with other countries. And what has NATO to do with this? Absolutely nothing. Spelling it out in simple terms, a coalition of many countries was formed to defeat ISIS, with the U.S. one of the participating partners. In the area of North West Syria, the U.S. has been backing the Kurdish troops in this endeavour. Read Paul Carter's post to get a clear picture of what this means in the area if the U.S. withdraws.I don't think you quite understand the ramifications.
.
The fact remains that to wake up one morning and decide to pull out of an international coalition unilaterally and with no previous consultation with your allies is NOT acceptable.

SEND
Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E10 days ago

brian f
You don't know WHAT I'm advocating because 1) you never fully read or comprehend what I DO say !
2) It's your way and your beliefs or nothing . Everyone else is wrong.!
trump and most of his cabinet and military are NEVER on the same page because it ALL revolves around trump's ego and keeping his base and Hannity and coulter and Limbaugh and judge Janine and Ingraham ALL happy You know, the ones really running your POTUS !!
Try and limit your nastiness because most of us are sick of it
Still waiting for my money from the other sources YOU accuse me of COLLUDING with.

SEND
Brian F
Brian F10 days ago

Rhiberta E You're advocating that the USA stay in Syria, which is a violation of international law. You sound like those war mongers in both parties. I guess our "defense" industry is paying you well.

SEND
Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E10 days ago

paul b
You and brian f should join teams and solve the problems of the world Apparently you both think that not one other person or country or organization is doing it according to both your likes..
I wonder if either of YOU were "able" to serve YOUR country or did you leave that up to other people and other countries to help with the world's defense..

SEND
Brian F
Brian F10 days ago

Anabel Bedini I almost never agree with Paul B, but he is right about pulling out of Syria. You're completely wrong about this. I'm no fan of Assad, but he is the leader of Syria, and has invited Russia and Iran to stay in the country. The USA was not invited, and has no right under international law to stay in the country. Of course no one wants Turkey to slaughter the Kurds, but the USA is not the world's policieman. In addition Assad is fighting ISIS, along with the USA, so it makes no sense for the USA to stay in Syria. If the USA pulls out, Assad, Russia, the Kurds, and Iran will take care of ISIS, so the USA is not needed. The USA also needs to get out of Afghanistan where it has been for the last 17 years, and accomplished nothing. The USA has been invading and bombing the Middle East for far too long. It's long past time for the USA to get out of the Middle East.

SEND
Paul B
Paul B10 days ago

Annabel,
Then those 'Allies" should pack up their armies and move them to Syria. If it is THAT critical to NATO, then all of NATO should be there as well. No, it is us and us alone keeping peace that the region hasn't wanted for decades. It doesn't matter how long we stay there, like in Afghanistan, the situation won't change regardless of our attempts.
IMO, it is time to get our troops out of Syria, pull back to Iraq and stay there a while before pulling out completely. This is NOT the same situation as when Obama yanked the troops out, calling ISIS a JV team and ignoring the serious impending threats.

SEND
Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini10 days ago

That last sentence was supposed to finish 'unilaterally and without consultation.'

SEND