Date :Monday, December 31st, 2018 | Time : 10:58 |ID: 81560 | Print

Withdrawal decision may be a broader redeployment of U.S. forces out of Middle East

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SHAFAQNA | By Leila Yazdani : Donald Trump is bringing back home America’s troops from Syria just two years after he was elected president. Trump’s decision on Afghanistan was made at the same time, too. Although the withdrawal decision doesn’t signal an end to the American-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State, it will likely erode U.S. leadership of that 31-nation effort. It may also be just the start of a broader redeployment of U.S. forces out of the region.

The U.S. plans to withdraw all of its troops from Syria, a senior Pentagon official tells NPR. Trump is withdrawing roughly 2,000 troops from Syria, the moves appeared to represent a reshuffling of the administration’s military strategy that more closely aligns with what Trump promised during his campaign but that has been opposed by Mattis and others inside the Pentagon. Even though the president said last spring that U.S. forces would be leaving Syria “very soon,” administration officials in September announced that he had decided to keep troops there indefinitely to ensure ISIS’s “enduring defeat,” compel the withdrawal of Iranian forces, and shape the post-war order.

Withdrawal from Syria will be Trump’s second practical application of foreign policy. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that known as the “Iran Deal” was the first.

President Trump did not mention the troop withdrawal, but seemed to refer to it obliquely.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he wrote. He later tweeted that fighting Daesh terrorists in Syria would be up to the Syrian government troops aided by Russia and Iran.

The move was a surprise to many, including some senior presidential military and diplomatic advisers in Washington. Earlier, Mattis said that after the defeat of ISIS, U.S. forces would remain in Syria to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist group and to counteract Iran.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the White House’s announcement that it would begin to withdraw troops from Syria would put the U.S. at risk.

She tweeted “Actions have consequences, and whether we’re in Syria or not, the people who want to harm us are there & at war. Isolationism is weakness. Empowering ISIS is dangerous. Playing into Russia & Iran’s hands is foolish. This President is putting our national security at grave risk”.

Max Hoffman, a national security expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, tweeted that “Trump’s Syria decision is a huge mistake.” Jonathan Schanzer, a leader at the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted, “Obama’s red line debacle was a dark day for American leadership in the Middle East. This is far worse.”

Trump’s decision on Syria caused the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Times also reported. The pullout from Syria prompted US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to finally announce his long-anticipated resignation to allow President Trump to have a defense chief whose views are more aligned with the US president, he said in his resignation letter Thursday, presstv told.

While, The administration had been preparing to host a meeting of coalition foreign ministers early next year, the withdrawal decision will likely erode U.S. leadership of that 31-nation effort. “While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world,” Mattis wrote, “we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances or showing respect to those allies”, theatlantic told.

US criticism centers on five main themes

The criticism, from both right- and left-leaning analysts and politicians, centers on Five main themes. The decision has been criticized, even among Republicans, as abandoning Kurdish allies in the face of a hostile Turkey and a still dangerous Islamic State, as well as leaving Syria open territory for the geopolitical presence of Russia and Iran, newyork times mentioned.

On Twitter, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., voiced his displeasure with a troop withdrawal plan.

“Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” Graham tweeted. “With all due respect, ISIS is not defeated in Syria, Iraq, and after just returning from visiting there — certainly not Afghanistan. President @realDonaldTrump is right to want to contain Iranian expansion. However, withdrawal of our forces in Syria mightily undercuts that effort and put our allies, the Kurds at risk”.

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, tweeted that the decision was “a victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies & the Syrian regime”.

But, The US president also defended his decision on Syria, arguing that the US does not want to be the “Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others.”

This criticism centers on five main themes:

1) Provide the extra space ISIS needs to make a comeback: ISIS isn’t actually defeated, as Trump claimed in his tweet Wednesday justifying the decision. They’ve lost nearly all the territory they once held, and their so-called “caliphate” has been dismantled. The U.S. Pentagon officials have said that ISIS controls about 2 percent of what it once did in the Middle East. But, the Pentagon estimates ISIS has as many as 17,100 fighters in Syria, and many criticism have warned that if the US pulls out too soon, that could provide the extra space the group needs to make a comeback.

2) US is handing over the Syria to Iran: Withdrawing US troops from Syria essentially means that the US is handing over the country to Iran.

U.S. officials managed for a time to persuade the president—who has built his Middle East policy on a vow to counter Iran’s influence and,  troops should stay until Iran withdrew its own advisers and forces from Syria. Bolton said in September U.S. troops wouldn’t leave “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.

3) The Kurds vulnerable to Turkey: Washington’s withdrawal would leave the Kurds vulnerable to Turkey.

Northern Syria, where the U.S. troops are located, is under Kurdish control. The U.S. has been allied with the Kurds in the battle against ISIS. About 2,000 U.S. troops are currently in the northeastern part of the country, near the Turkish border.

Washington already made that strategic choice when it did not protect Kurdistan from retaliation by Iraq, Iran, and Turkey after the latter held an independence referendum, nationalinterest mentioned.

Joost Hiltermann, Middle East director of the Crisis Group, which aims to “prevent deadly conflict”, said the decision could be “a disaster” for the Kurdish forces. Without US support, he said, the Kurds “would be left twitching in the wind”.

4) Kurdish-Arab alliance is to unravel in US absence : The American presence also helped to glue together a Kurdish-Arab alliance in the east that is likely to unravel in its absence.

5) Russia remain as a prime player : Lawmakers from both parties blasted the decision, saying the U.S. departure also will leave Russia as a prime player shaping Syria’s future and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may deliver on his vow to attack Kurdish forces in Syria, fortune told.

These five arguments overlook some very important realities

Supporters of Trump’s decision are raising questions Why remain in a multisided civil war filled with bad participants and choices, and Why stay to protect the Kurds, satisfy the Turks, limit the Iranians, cow the Syrians, moderate the Russians. They mentioned the loud clamor of opposition to the president’s decision stands in contrast to the scale of the U.S. military presence in Syria.

Those are serious concerns but these arguments also overlook some very important realities.

One is that while the 2,000 US troops in the country were certainly involved in the fight against ISIS, the bulk of the US military effort in Syria took the form of airstrikes, not ground troops.

So it’s not like the troop withdrawal will change the course of the Syrian civil war, severely impact the ISIS fight in the short term, or deter Russia and Iran from involving themselves in the country, vox told.

Another is that those 2,000 US ground troops were explicitly focused on the fight against ISIS, and were not doing much of anything to actually push back against Iran’s influence in the country.

“Most of the troops currently in Syria are not involved in combat operations; they’re serving in a training capacity, protecting the Syria-Turkey border, conducting patrols, or providing cover for supply convoys in and out of the eastern part of the country”, Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security said.

A tactical victory for Putin

The American decision to withdraw represented at least a tactical victory for Putin, who intervened in Syria in September 2015 with the primary goal of re-establishing Russia as a power to be reckoned with in the Middle East, analysts said. In contrast, some analysts noted that Putin still faces some challenges in Syria . The Islamic State, while mostly lying low, remains a potentially potent guerrilla force in the eastern desert region.

Putin’s main goal from Day 1 of his intervention was to establish himself as the global authority to prevent regime change.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday hailed the decision by President Trump to withdraw United States forces from Syria, calling it “correct” because the American troops were not needed.

Pulling back from Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump has ordered the start of withdrawing some 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, about half of the total number of American boots on the ground in the war-torn country. The abrupt decision, which came a day after the president’s announcement of military withdrawal from Syria, has stunned even Afghan officials who say they have not been briefed on the plans.

The idea of pulling back from Afghanistan drew a sharp rebuke from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The 14,000 troops currently in Afghanistan are split between counter-terrorism forces and soldiers that are training and advising Afghan fighters. About 7,000 American troops are expected to be brought home from the country in the coming months, nypost told.

The decision to remove U.S. forces will complicate negotiations with the Taliban over reconciliation with the Afghan government, Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said. It’s not clear how many troops could be withdrawn.

New troops may soon be sent to Poland

Donald Trump was reportedly set to follow up his announcement of a total U.S. military withdrawal from Syria with a partial pullout from Afghanistan, but new troops may soon be sent to NATO Western military alliance’s front lines with Russia, newsweek reported.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in Europe, said at a press conference alongside the U.S. leader in September that he hoped “that we will build Fort Trump in Poland together.” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak then told Polskie Radio 24 last month that “Fort Trump” was “beyond doubt, so we do not talk about ‘whether,’ but ‘how,’ we are not talking about whether it will strengthen American forces in Poland, but how it will run and what its branches will be.”

A day after Trump announced his decision to downsize the U.S. military presence abroad, Duda said Thursday that plans to bring other troops to Poland were still on track and would be decided by spring. In an interview with the Wirtualna Polska news outlet, the leader said that “an increase in the allied presence in Poland, including by the U.S., will definitely make our country and the entire region stronger, I do not hide the fact that we are trying to do this.

 

Read more from Shafaqna: 

SYRIAN ARMY ENTER KURDISH-HELD TOWN OF MANBIJ         
ARAB STATES DIPLOMATIC THAW COMES AFTER THE US WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA  
IRAQ IS READY FOR ANY DANGER OF US WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA        

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