Trump's bizarre decision on Syria

The ever-unpredictable President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of the 2,000 US ground troops in Sy...

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 7:31 AM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 7:31 AM

The ever-unpredictable President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of the 2,000 US ground troops in Syria who are training local forces to fight ISIS, according to a US defense official who spoke to CNN.

This comes after the Trump administration had finally brought some coherence to its Syria strategy under veteran diplomat Ambassador James Jeffrey and retired Army Col. Joel Rayburn, both of whom have deep experience in the region.

Armed forces

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

ISIS

ISIS airstrikes

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Military

Misc organizations

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

Syria

Syria conflict

The Americas

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

US federal government

White House

Until Wednesday, US policy in Syria was easy to describe: Defeat ISIS, maintain US forces in Syria until Iranian military forces withdraw from the country, and push for a transition away from the government of Bashar al Assad.

But news of the withdrawal broke on Wednesday after Trump tweeted, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."

Just four days ago, Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, warned against a withdrawal when I interviewed him at the Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday.

While McGurk called ISIS a "significantly degraded organization," he added, "But no one who does this day to day is naive enough to know you can just declare victory and walk away. We have to maintain pressure on these networks really, for a period of years."

Pulling US troops out now would be premature and doing so would hand over an unexpected Christmas gift to five American adversaries: Assad, Assad's close allies including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as well as ISIS and al Qaeda, whose virulent Syrian affiliate goes by a variety of names, including Al Nusra.

Head scratching hardly begins to cover it.

While Trump has expressed his desire to pull out of Syria before, there were two main arguments that might have held him back.

The first: Why replicate the total withdrawal of US troops in Iraq -- first set in motion by President George W. Bush before the Obama administration made the official announcement at the end of 2011 -- which helped set the stage for the return of ISIS?

The second: Why hand over Syria to the Russians and the Iranians?

It seems these arguments are no longer persuasive to Trump.

Unfortunately, according to UN Undersecretary-General for Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov, who spoke on the panel I moderated at the Doha Forum, there are an estimated 20,000 ISIS fighters left in the world, many of whom are in Iraq and Syria.

Then add to that the fact al Qaeda's affiliate and offshoots in Syria are estimated as of August to have 10,000 fighters, according to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

If there is one key lesson we have learned from fighting jihadist terrorist groups in the 17 years since 9/11 it is that they thrive in weak or failing Muslim states such as Syria, and other countries where the United States has little to no presence.

The Syrian pullout would run the risk of negating so many of the gains that have been made against ISIS. It also leaves the United States' Syrian Kurdish partners, who have done the bulk of the fighting against ISIS, to fend for themselves against the powerful Turkish military, which regards them as terrorists.

And we've run a version of this play before. After the United States pulled out of Iraq, the group that later became ISIS first organized in Syria in 2011 before it invaded Iraq three years later and took over territory the size of Great Britain, controlling a population of nearly 12 million.

It's mystifying why Trump is risking even a limited repetition of this mistake.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540083

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798481529
Mobile41283809
Madison35157506
Tuscaloosa25925455
Shelby25302249
Montgomery24723593
Baldwin21411310
Lee15993172
Calhoun14574319
Morgan14425280
Etowah13925353
Marshall12280225
Houston10648282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10070151
St. Clair9948245
Cullman9768194
Lauderdale9460243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8341176
Walker7261278
Autauga7005108
Jackson6840112
Blount6773139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5581118
Dale4877113
Russell445738
Chilton4373113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394877
Chambers3596123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303098
Winston275873
Bibb264764
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219169
Fayette212862
Henry189943
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178141
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 80°
Humidity builds across our area through much of your Monday, importing plenty of extra cloud coverage. A few spotty showers and storms are likely, especially during the afternoon. By mid-week, we dry out and temperatures soar toward the weekend.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather