Top US Officials resign following Trumps Syria Pull Out

  • Posted on: 23 December 2018

On Dec 19th, 2018, Wednesday, Donald Trump announced that he’ll be pulling US troops from Syria and declared victory over ISIS. According to various reports, Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily without consulting his security advisers nor any US allies. The US president reportedly made this decision following a phone call with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan on Dec 14th. Despite strong objections from most countries involved in the fight against ISIS and many US lawmakers reiterating claims that this move would serve as a win for ISIS, Iran and Russia, Trump heavily defended his decision on social media where he said that the “U.S shouldn’t be the policeman of the Middle East” and “Time for others to finally fight,” he said in a follow-up tweet.

Trump has been talking about withdrawal for years now as he does not see any financial or strategic value in keeping US forces in Syria. The Pentagon and the State Department then coalesced their efforts to convince the commander-in-chief that the US must stay, but in April he gave the military six months to finish the job against the Islamic State (ISIS). Earlier this month, the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the town of Hajin, the last ISIS-controlled urban area. While ISIS remains a threat, Trump believes the necessary time given to the military was enough and US troops should leave.

Global Reaction

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, describing the American presence there as illegitimate and the Islamic State as largely defeated on the ground. Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. However, US allies voiced dismay at Trump’s sudden decision. As such, France and Germany spoke out against Trump's move on Thursday where the French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that although ISIS had lost 90 percent of its territory and turned to guerrilla tactics in Syria, they still posed a threat. The British government has also contradicted Donald Trump’s claim that ISIS has been defeated in Syria, as Junior Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood was more blunt, retweeting a message from Trump that the extremists had been defeated in Syria with the words: "I strongly disagree. It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive."

France, Germany, the UK, are America's main partners in the NATO military alliance. Together with Denmark, they are also its main allies in the “Global Coalition against IS” in Syria. French and British forces have fought alongside the 2,000 or so US troops on the ground in the north-east of the country. French, British, and Danish jets have also contributed to US-led air strikes, while Germany has provided logistical and reconnaissance support for the campaign.

Kurdish Fears

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement Thursday that a U.S. pullout would have a negative effect on the fight against Islamic State militants and could allow the group to rebuild itself. A rapid withdrawal, they say, will leave them vulnerable to an offensive Turkey has threatened to launch against them east of the Euphrates river — and would likely lead to breaking away of Arab fighters aligned with them who are being courted by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

The Kurds, armed and supported by the US military have been a major actor on the ground in the war against ISIS. The US proxy, known as the SDF, has lost more than 1,500 men in the four-year campaign to oust the extremists from eastern Syria. The Kurds have always counted on being able to leverage the near-defeat of ISIS into a deeper alliance with Washington and more of a say in the postwar fate of their corner of Syria.

Turkey on Saturday sent military reinforcements to northern Syria near an area controlled by Kurdish forces as Ankara threatens to carry out a fresh offensive to wipe them out, a war monitor said. Turkey accuses the YPG of being a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

According to one report the Kurds are discussing the release of more than three thousand ISIS members as a response to Trump’s decision.

Top Official Resignations

US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation in a letter to President Trump on Thursday Dec 20th, 2018. In it, he said the president deserved a Defense Chief who shares his views, and stressed the significance of alliances. Mattis’ decision to step down follows widespread reports that he disagreed with the president on a number of key national security issues. According to sources, Mattis believes pulling out of Syria is a betrayal to the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces – U.S. allies whom military leaders believe will be slaughtered once the U.S. leaves Syria.

Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the global coalition to defeat Islamic State, submitted his resignation on Friday Dec 21st, 2018. According to the sources, McGurk viewed the Syria decision as reckless and couldn't defend it. He felt his integrity and his credibility were on the line according to one source. McGurk was one of the few Obama administration holdovers to serve in the current administration. He also served under President George W. Bush.

According to reports, more pentagon resignations could come in the wake of Mattis’ departure over the abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria.

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According to media reports citing unnamed U.S. officials, Trump is also planning to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 U.S. service personnel in Afghanistan, where they are training and advising government forces against insurgent groups.

Following the official announcement, the White House emphasized that the U.S. will continue to support the fight against ISIS and remain ready to “re-engage” when needed. However, President Trump said in a tweet that U.S. troops would no longer be fighting IS on behalf of others.

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