The U.S. risks being out of play in Syria with the surprise announcement to withdraw its troops from the country.
Nature abhors a vacuum. As do geopolitics! By announcing a complete and rapid pullout of some 2,000 soldiers deployed in Syria for the past four years, Donald Trump has taken a risk: leaving Russia and Iran as the sole moderators in a country that has been embroiled in a terrible civil war since March 2011. Vladimir Putin isn’t mistaken in congratulating the American president’s decision on Thursday. But the two powers whose military interventions, supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah, saved Bashar Assad’s regime aren’t the only ones that stand to benefit from a future American pullout. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who launched a merciless struggle to prevent the formation of a Kurdish entity in northern Syria contiguous to the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq – and especially to Turkish Kurdistan – now has his hands free. He can launch a large-scale offensive against Syrian Kurds who have, up to this point, been on American allies’ territory to fight the Islamic State.
France and the UK Have Decided To Stay.
Of course, the exodus of American special forces will take more time than one of Trump’s tweets. European allies of the U.S., with France and the U.K. at the forefront, have decided to keep military forces on the ground, with support from Germany.
Furthermore, it’s possible that Trump is making a serious error in judgment in the same vein as George W. Bush’s rash proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq in May 2003. The Islamic State’s terrorist movement has certainly undergone some serious setbacks, but it is prepared to reorganize in Syria and Iraq and launch new attacks in Europe. Moreover, there’s no political solution in sight to Syria’s civil war. By withdrawing military forces, the U.S. risks losing the weight it carries in the region. In a Middle East that’s as complicated as ever, simple ideas like Trump’s are dangerous.