President Donald Trump’s decision to declare ISIS defeated and order a full US withdrawal from Syria has been met with anger and disbelief by the Washington establishment that hoped for regime change in Damascus.
Trump declared victory over Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) on Wednesday morning, as media reported that some 2,000 or so US troops will leave Syria within 60 to 100 days. Though Trump had openly spoken about wanting to leave Syria back in March, senior officials in his administration have said that US forces would stay there indefinitely.
CNN’s Jake Tapper reacted to the announcement by quoting an anonymous Pentagon official who saw it as a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Responding to this, a Pentagon official asks me: “so when does Russia announce their victory?” https://t.co/1kWL3XH9oT
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 19, 2018
Hillary Clinton’s former foreign policy adviser Jesse Lehrich bemoaned that the withdrawal would embolden Syrian President Bashar Assad and strengthen Russia and Iran, while leaving the US-allied Kurdish militias “once again hung out to dry.”
there are no easy answers in Syria & getting troops home is a worthy goal, but…
1) this is a lie — the Pentagon says so.
2) abrupt withdrawal will not only breathe new life into ISIS, but also amounts to a dangerous abandonment of our allies & strategic goals in the region. https://t.co/w4wUk1ap2U
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) December 19, 2018
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), known as a foreign policy hawk, also disagreed with a withdrawal, calling it a “colossal” mistake and a “grave error that’s going to have significant repercussions in the years and months to come.”
Rubio echoed Lehrich’s assessment that the US withdrawal would turn Syria over to Russia and Iran, adding that it might lead to another conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, and lend strength to the (hypothetical) argument by Russia and China that Washington is an “unreliable ally.”
The Atlantic Council’s resident Syria expert, Faysal Itani, was likewise glum in his predictions.
“I expect ISIS will be back in some form within a year, and expelling Iran from Syria will not be achieved if the US is not in Syria at all,” he told the UAE-based The National, adding that a more likely outcome would be “a possible military confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds, at least in the border area, if Russia allows that.”
The Washington Post’s foreign policy editor Jackson Diehl wondered how Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton felt about the withdrawal, given his recent statements about the US staying in Syria as long as any Iranian-backed forces were there, meaning indefinitely.