Small Wars Journal

What Happened to Trump’s Syria Withdrawal?

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 2:47am

What Happened to Trump’s Syria Withdrawal? By Ishaan Tharoor – Washington Post

Last month, President Trump stunned his allies — and possibly his own advisers — by announcing the imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Critics feared Trump was playing into the hands of Russia and Iran; others lamented what they saw as yet another American betrayal of Kurds in the region. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in protest, and the top State Department official responsible for the campaign against the Islamic State angrily sped up his departure from his post.


But it’s now far from clear when — or even if — the panic-inducing drawdown will take place. Trump seemed chastened by the backlash in Washington and extended his initial 30-day deadline for the pullout to four months. Administration officials have since muddied the waters further, briefing reporters that there is no timeline for withdrawal whatsoever…


 “We’re pulling out of Syria,” Trump said Sunday, before offering a significant caveat. “But ... we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”


At the heart of the chaos is a clear split within the White House. Trump, who espouses a kind of nationalist isolationism, is keen on disentangling the United States from costly military adventures that offer him minimal political returns at home.


Unlike many Republican wonks in Washington, Trump was never interested in removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. In December, he perfunctorily declared that the Islamic State had been defeated — despite mountains of evidence to the contrary — and said it was largely the responsibility of Turkey and other Arab countries to carry on the fight…

Read on.