Whether in Syria or Afghanistan, if Trump were to withdraw his troops, the number of refugees and the threat of terrorism would rise. Even in Europe.
The reaction of German foreign minister Heiko Maas and the German public is strangely quiet and composed as the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan draws ever closer. It appears as if no one in this country is affected by the consequences of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision.
Yet in both cases, Germany and the other E.U. countries are affected much more than appears to be clear to many. For Syria and Afghanistan, a sad sentence threatens to become true: Before the war is after the war, and the consequences will be felt and seen in Europe once again.
Because the self-proclaimed Islamic State is by no means defeated as Trump asserts. After many battles with soldiers of the anti-Islamic State group coalition, there are just fewer Islamic State group fighters who control hardly any territory. However, they are not disappearing, but are instead becoming what they were before the caliphate summoned them: a terror group that will continue to kill. Up to now their targets were places in Syria, in Iraq – and even in Europe.
In addition, some conflicts in Syria threaten to escalate due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops, following which more people will flee again – with well-known consequences. Because, for instance, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad will soon press to control the entire country again as he did before the outbreak of the civil war. In his way are the last resistance groups in the northwest and Turkish soldiers in the north who have occupied parts of Syria to keep the influence of Syrian Kurds at bay.
Assad’s allies in Iran provide further trouble. Their militias are closing in on the Syrian-Israeli border. In the past months, Israel has repeatedly attacked targets in Syria to stop this advance. Either way, the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops will not make anything better in Syria.
Concern Grows in Afghanistan
A similarly alarming picture is emerging in Afghanistan. If the U.S. army really withdraws, then the German Bundeswehr and all other soldiers of the international community will have to leave the country because, sooner or later, they are dependent on the Americans. The end of the controversial 17-year foreign deployment might upset few here in Germany.
It looks quite different in Afghanistan. There, concern is growing that the U.S. delegation, in the sought-after peace agreement, will compel the Taliban to fight the terror organizations al-Qaida and Islamic State group so that they cannot perpetrate attacks on other countries like the U.S. In addition, the insurgents will need to promise not to roll back all of the progress that the international community has brought about since the victory over the Taliban regime in 2001. For the moment, they will possibly not drive the hated government out of office nor destroy the development projects and schools for girls, but the Afghans ask themselves how long the Taliban will observe these commitments.
Donald Trump Doesn’t Want an End to the War on Terror
There are certainly good reasons to discuss the international deployment. The discussion would need to be balanced and analytical to redress the numerous mistakes – by all means with the desired goal of withdrawing the international troops, but the U.S. president is not seeking that.
He also doesn’t want to end the disastrous war on terror that his predecessor George W. Bush began and no president up to now has concluded. Then people would no longer be condemned without trial and deliberately killed with the help of drone attacks just because U.S. security services have concluded that they are a threat to the United States. Many controversial surveillance measures would no longer be carried out. The U.S. characterizes them as helping to ensure the security of the country, but so many critics want to see them ended – partly because they fuel bloody conflicts in countries like Afghanistan.
In other words, Trump doesn’t want to talk about which strategies, methods and means could settle the wars in Afghanistan and Syria. Instead, he wants to keep his followers happy with quick political successes like the announced withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan and thus make his reelection possible. The responsibility for the consequences of decisions of prior administrations play no role in his deliberations.
It remains to be hoped that the U.S. secret services will not only contradict their president concerning the planned withdrawal, but instead will thwart Trump’s plans together with Democrats and Republicans. Then not all problems would be solved, but the worst could be avoided.