Why Donald Trump is holding off on withdrawing troops from Syria

Will they or won’t they? US vague on withdrawal from Syria

Rodi Said Reuters

A commander in the regional military alliance that backs Assad said Jaish al-Islam's only option was to leave for areas northeast of Aleppo. So Obama decided, with the Islamic State apparently defeated, that it was time for the United States to come out and let Iraqis "take responsibility for their country".

Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched their offensive against eastern Ghouta in February.

Also on the losing end of Trump's decision to withdraw: Israel. At the same time, Washington appealed to "countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges". Trump's desire for a rapid withdrawal faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community, all of which argued that keeping the 2,000 US soldiers now in Syria is key to ensuring the Islamic State does not reconstitute itself.

There is an enormous gulf between this popular antiwar sentiment and the demands of the military-intelligence apparatus, the Democratic and Republican parties, and the corporate media, where there has been near-universal denunciation of Trump's suggestion of a pullout from Syria.

The deadlock in Washington confirms that Trump still lacks the power to override ongoing Defense Department policies on Syria, University of Pittsburgh Professor of International Relations Michael Brenner said.

In Syria, however, the U.S. made a decision to create bases in Kurdish-controlled areas taken back by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is comprised mainly of Kurds and Arab fighters. While military leaders warn of a possible insurgent revival, Trump wants other countries to be responsible for stabilizing the area.

When asked about Trump's withdrawal statement, the Pentagon chose to refer to the White House, while the State Department's Heather Nauert said she was "not aware of" the decision, declining to comment further. This has put the U.S. in a position of confrontation with Turkey.

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"We continue to be focused on the defeat of ISIS". The Trump administration drove the Islamic State from its strongholds by working with Kurdish proxies despised by Turkey.

In this sense, such a strategy suggests the United States is reverting to an older mantra of regime change in Syria. According to this interpretation, he no longer feels constrained by subordinates-such as outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster-who have annoyed Trump with advice counseling him to go in some other direction.

Inevitably, their strategy appears to be one of partitioning Syria altogether and isolating the Assad government to the western portion of Syria while giving the Kurds the northern portion across northern Syria and uniting it with northern Iraq.

The IS militants kept a sliver of territory along the Euphrates River near Boukamal, and some nebulous zones of control in the desert of eastern Syria and on the border with Iraq - but nothing that seemed beyond containment. Their dream of an Iranian "land bridge" that allows them access to the Mediterranean is not quite there, but their influence will surely grow, as it has in neighboring Iraq.

While the USA describes its decision to work with the YPG as a tactical, short-term approach to the defeat of ISIS, this move has already directly impacted Turkey's security. There has been no discernible US diplomatic activity; instead, Russia, Iran and Turkey have been meeting on their own to carve up Syria.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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