Republican hawks slam Trump on Syria pullout
- Author: Jon Douglas Dec 20, 2018,
Dec 20, 2018, 1:49
Senior State Department officials told The Washington Post in September that Trump, despite his long-held position that USA troops should get out of the Middle East, had agreed to a strategy that would indefinitely extend the military effort in Syria.
Defense Secretary Jim 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.
The U-turn in policy was made by President Trump, who has consistently spoken of his desire to get out of Syria, according to a U.S. defense official.
The White House has confirmed USA troops are being withdrawn from Syria, after President Trump said the Islamic State (IS) group had been "defeated" there. After visiting Syria earlier this year, it is abundantly clear the approximately 2,000 American troops stationed there are vital to our national security interests. "Yet, the United States has no diplomatic presence in Syria". We have started the process of returning USA troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.
There is no timeline yet for the pace of the withdrawal, the official said.
The confirmation of the withdrawal comes after Turkey said it was preparing to launch an operation against a US-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria, something that risks confrontation with the US.
US officials previously have telegraphed mixed messages on Syria.
Trump signals full U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria: 'We have defeated ISIS'
"What we are trying to read here are the internal machinations of the White House and the Pentagon". The U.S. has been allied with the Kurds in the battle against ISIS but not in their fight against Assad.
Hikmat Habib, a Syrian Kurdish, said he has not yet seen any evidence of a withdrawal, but added that the move is "part of the disagreement between influential states in Syria: American-Turkish disagreements, American-Russian disagreements". "So that will take some time", he said, according to Bloomberg News.
"Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake", Graham tweeted.
Again on Twitter, Trump alleged that Syrian refugees "pouring into our great country" could belong to the IS group and warned of the "destruction of civilization as we know it". He will certainly face an enormous amount of pushback from within his administration and without (all those #NeverTrump conservatives probably disagree with him on foreign policy more than any other policy topic).
"We may see a new phase in the Syrian crisis in the coming days, and its features will be shown as Daesh is now limited to specific areas", he said, using another name for IS.
Despite their preference for an ongoing military presence in the war-torn country, Trump has said he wanted to bring the troops home when possible. "There may be a new mechanism for resolving the Syrian crisis" based on political processes and United Nations resolutions.
US President Donald Trump (L) watches an air assault exercise with Army Major General Walter Piatt at Fort Drum, New York, on August 13, 2018.
The decision to bring home the 2,000 U.S. service personnel deployed in Syria brings and end to assumptions about a longer-term presence in the devastated country which senior U.S. officials had called for to help ensure ISIS does not regroup.
The policy of leaving USA troops in Syria as leverage against Iran and to ensure Syrian stability was first announced in early September by James Jeffrey, who Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed as special representative for "Syria Engagement".