Second thoughts on Syrian pullout
President Donald Trump’s sudden announcement in December that ISIS was defeated and he was bringing U.S. troops in Syria home left his military advisers suffering from whiplash. They felt that ISIS was beaten down but not yet eliminated, and could stage a comeback with a too-hasty retreat. They also knew Turkish troops would be sent into Syria to attack the Kurdish troops who have been our allies but whom the Turks consider terrorists, once U.S. troops were out of the way. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had told Trump as much in a phone call just before Trump announced the pullout.
It seems that calmer heads in the Trump administration are having an impact on that decision. National security advisor John Bolton told journalists on Sunday that the U.S. pullout was contingent on Turkey promising not to attack the Kurds in Syria. The president tweeted Monday that “we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!”
U.S. experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have taught us that it’s a lot easier to send the military in to a situation than it is to pull out again. A military withdrawal from Syria should happen when our objective has been assured and the possible repercussions have been addressed.