Trump’s WTF? Foreign Policy, Syria Edition

Trump Maladministration

Normally when one wakes up in the morning and hears that the President has ordered an immediate withdrawal of ground troops from some place we probably shouldn’t have been anyway this would be screaming headline news, but in Trump World it seems to be taking a while to register.

The Trump administration is planning to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, a defense official said Wednesday, as President Trump declared victory against the Islamic State.

The president, in a message on Twitter, said the United States had “defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

His statement came shortly after news organizations reported that the White House had decided on Tuesday to abruptly remove the entire U.S. force of more than 2,000 troops from Syria.

So he’s declaring victory and going home, and in principle I don’t have a problem with that. But even lefty commenters are saying that the withdrawal would mostly benefit ISIS, Iran and (cough) Russia.

Alex Ward:

President Donald Trump has ordered the complete withdrawal of all American troops from Syria within 60 to 100 days — ending the small US presence in the war-torn country, curbing the fight against ISIS, and weakening America’s ability to counter Iran.

Other reports say Trump is only considering taking troops out of the country and hasn’t yet made a final decision. When asked to clarify, the Pentagon said in a statement Wednesday morning only that “at this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region.”

Yet just one minute later, the president tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, added more than an hour later that the US “has defeated the territorial caliphate” and that America has “started returning United States troops home.” …

… There are roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria there to help defeat ISIS, mostly by training Kurdish fighters. However, Trump has long questioned American troops’ presence in the country.

In April, he explicitly said he wanted to bring all American armed forces in Syria home. But surprisingly, he changed his mind five months later, agreeing to keep US troops in the Middle Eastern country indefinitely. Now it seems he’s reverted to his original stance.

ISIS has been substantially weakened but still has fighters in Syria and could make a comeback if the pressure comes off. Alex Ward speculates that a more likely reason Trump wants to withdraw is that Turkey is planning an offensive against the U.S.-backed Kurds. This might put U.S. troops in the position of having to defend Kurdish troops against Turkish troops. Better to bug out now, I guess. Too bad about the Kurds.

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon isn’t happy.

Pentagon officials who had sought to talk the president out of the decision as late as Wednesday morning argued that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey. …

… In a series of meetings and conference calls over the past several days, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior national security officials have tried to dissuade Mr. Trump from a wholesale troop withdrawal, arguing that the significant national security policy shift would essentially cede foreign influence in Syria to Russia and Iran at a time when American policy calls for challenging both countries.

Abandoning the American-backed Kurdish allies, Pentagon officials have argued, will hamper future efforts by the United States to gain the trust of local fighters, from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia.

In addition, the Islamic State has not been full vanquished from the small territory it controls on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Islamic State has held that territory for more than a year in the face of attacks by American-allied forces, and has used it as a launching pad to carry out attacks in Iraq and Syria.

Very deep in the story, we find this:

But one Defense Department official suggested that Mr. Trump also wants to divert attention away from the series of legal challenges confronting him over the recent days: the Russian investigation run by the special counsel as well as the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a hush-money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

Well, at least he’s not starting a war as a distraction. Be grateful for that.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Chris  •  Dec 19, 2018 @7:52 pm

    As I heard, one rationale is:

    Saudi Arabia wants Erdogan to stop talking about Khashoggi's murder

    Erdogan hates the Kurds

    Trump (or is it his son-in-law?), needs/wants Saudi money

    Erdogan tells Trump if he pulls US troops out, he'll stop talking

    Trump's decisions are always transactional

    This action leaves Kurds open for slaughter for Erdogan, but that's okay as long as Trump gets his Saudi money

  2. doug  •  Dec 19, 2018 @8:25 pm

    The final quote ought to be the lead. Trump is trying to gett through the week and go to Florida. Syria is a serious global flash point and Trump's tweet moved the discussion to the consequences of a serious policy mistake. He just got handed the 'final' defeat on the wall with the CR. Pelosi will never fund it. Even Fox tore into Kellyane C when she tried to spin the WH capitulation. Fox pointed out thqat when Trump returns in Jan, the Dems own the House. 

    Trump will go through contortions trying to misapproriate funds from other agencies. That will be shut down by the courts. Trump will try to use the military to build the wall. I think that will also lose in the courts. In the end, Trump will succeed in putting a YUGE spotlight on his defeat. 

    Wall Street went down 350 points today – down 1000 points for the last 5 days. Lower than it opened on Jan 1, if I'm not mistaken. The Fed gave Trump the middle finger and raised interest rates. The other bit of significant news is that tne NY Atorney General shut down the Trump Foundation and is continuing a criminal investigation w/ referrals to IRS. The only person on the Foundation who isn't named Trump is the CFO and he's cooperating. BTW, the DOJ injunction on indicting a sitting president doesn't prevent Trump from being inticted by New York State. 

    Buy Orville Reddenbaher stock.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 19, 2018 @8:32 pm

    JAYZOOOOOOOOOJAYZOOOOOOOOOS!!!!!

    You leave to have dinner, and by the time you come back, a new tRUMP-turd drops!

    While running for POTUS, tRUMP had some deal with Russia to build tRUMPski Towerich in Moscow?  And he got 4 million Uncle Sam's?  And the copy they showed on MSNBC had tRUMP's signature scrawling bold black-marker signature!

    WTF?  FTW?

    OK.  YOUR move, Mr. Mueller…

     

  4. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 19, 2018 @8:51 pm

    Oh poor Syria, you're nothing but a distraction from the War for Democracy v. Fascism we're having here back a home.

    Hmm…

     Our military told the PresiTURD "No!"

     But I guess tRUMP doesn't listen to his "My Generals' in his "My Military" anymore.

    Still, better than this "MORAN!" invading Canada.  Or nuking Central and South America.

     Oh, and the poor, poor Kurds!  REALLY!!!

    First, H.W. "Papa Doc" Bush abandoned them.

    Then, Dumbaya "Baby Doc" Bush did the same.

    And now, tRUMP is screwing them – probably because his other favorite Dictator, Erdagon, fluffed his oh-so fragile ego.

    'America:  VAT A GREAT COUNTRY!!!!!'

  5. grannyeagle  •  Dec 19, 2018 @10:15 pm

    –"At least he's not starting a war as a distraction".   Yet.

  6. Aj  •  Dec 19, 2018 @11:10 pm

    He and bill shine wanting to tandem with fox news are changing subject with dumbass foreign policy.

  7. annonymoose  •  Dec 19, 2018 @11:15 pm

    Most of us have forgotten the US was never asked to intervene in Syria. The Syrian government has asked us to leave several times.  It is time we let the elected government of Syria do their thing.  There are enough interests doing the fighting in the country. We should have never gotten involved and that includes our part in the 'Arab Spring movement'. I am sure Saudis and Israelis are not happy with this decision.

  8. csm  •  Dec 20, 2018 @11:24 am

    The reasons for leaving Syria or never getting involved in the way we did in the first place are still valid.  The problem here is the decision Trump has made was not done for any of these arguably valid reasons, but for reasons having to do with his own self interest, which includes serving the interests of foreign dictators, against that of the US, in order to serve his own personal financial interests.  This ain't a gift horse we can afford to not look into the mouth of.

    There are two Trump towers in Turkey, and we now know the criminal extent he went to, to get one in Moscow.  Turkey wants the US out of the way to get after the Kurds, Saudis and Putin wants Turkey to stop talking about the murderous MBS, and Trump, with his eye always on his family's wallet, complies.  And consider this: Trump had no problem sending more troops to the border of Mexico, for nothing other than a political stunt, but is removing troops from Syria that, again, the reasons against them being there in the first place notwithstanding, is to satisfy his own foreign benefactors and personal and financial lien holders.

    Lastly, I saw "liddle" Bobby Corker on TV, forlornly pearl clutching about Trump's decision.  And the odious Lindsey Graham, blustering.  Then there's Flake and all the others, who could do something but are afraid of Trump's base and mean tweets to do something.  The behavior of thes people are sickeningly shameful. I know Pelosi et al are saying don't talk about impeachment, but right now we already have more evidence against this president that justifies his removal than Nixon had at the end of the discovery of his crimes.  Republican senators could act right now to end this, and I fear if they don't Trump is going to make a self-interested decision that is going to have very serious implications for the US and/or the world.  How many more times does Trump have to screw over the country for his own benefit before these cowards act? But these senators are just as craven and cowardly as Trump is.  Cowardice is the republican brand.

  9. moonbat  •  Dec 20, 2018 @5:08 pm

    I am starting to think, with 1) Trump's continual public blunders, 2) Mueller + various investigations coming to fruition, 3) the historic Republican wipe-out last November, 4) Republicans distancing themselves from Trump – that 2020 should be a slam dunk, with the qualifier that of course Democrats will find a way to steal defeat from victory. But I do feel a small hint of euphoria, way below the chaos and gloom.

  10. jrkrideau  •  Dec 20, 2018 @5:22 pm

    <i>Alex Ward speculates that a more likely reason Trump wants to withdraw is that Turkey is planning an offensive against the U.S.-backed Kurds</i>

    It may just be a realistic assessment ( I cannot believe I am using the word “realistic” wrt Trump) that whatever motives the USA had for being in Syria, they are moot. The USA has lost.

    I do agree, I believe—I have not read the article—that a firm and frank discussion with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have had an effect.

    Erdoğan regards the Syrian Democratic Army and many of the various Kurdish groups supported by the USA as an existential threat that must be crushed. It might not look too good if one NATO member attacks the forces supported by another NATO member, especially if members of the said two NATO forces might accidentally start shooting at each other which, unfortunately, might happen.

    <i>the withdrawal would mostly benefit ISIS, Iran and (cough) Russia.</i>

    I cannot see how a withdrawal would benefit ISIS. It is hated by all the local players and those forces will just continue to hunt it down. As for Russia it may benefit by being able to draw down its forces in Syria but other than that and perhaps a bit of prestige for the Russian forces I cannot see what Russia gains. Well, it may get an ice-free port at Tartus outside the Black Sea.

    Anything Russia was going to gain, it already has gained. I suspect most readers here will not agree with me, but I have always seen the Russian intervention in Syria based on one main principle. Russia, and Putin in particular, did not want another failed state in the region and the US strategy, as much as it had one, looked likely to produce one. Have a look at a map of the region. Russian borders are not that far away and Russia has a sizable Muslim population.

    We also need to look at Syria, Iraq, Iran (and perhaps Armenia?). All of the four countries, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, have sizable Kurdish minorities. None are likely to tolerate the emergence of an independent Kurdistan. The US by remaining in Syria without any legitimate justification would be almost declaring war on all four countries. I would not be surprised if “terrorist” attacks on US troops and bases would jump if the USA remains.

    I doubt if there is much love lost between those countries; I believe that Erdoğan hates Assad and Turkey and Iran have never been the best of friends but they are likely to co-operate to bash the Kurds

    <i>ISIS has been substantially weakened but still has fighters in Syria and could make a comeback if the pressure comes off.</i>

    Very true but, to put it brutally, the USA has not been much of a factor in the defeat of ISIS so them leaving is not likely to be of much import.

    Once the Syrian Arab Army with Russian air support, and most likely Turkish forces clears out Idlib, the SAA with Hezbollah and Iranian assistance should be able to reduce ISIS to a minor annoyance or wipe out it and what other remnants of other terrorist groups remain.

    The real losers are the SDA and the Kurds in general. One has to ask just how smart is the Kurdish leadership? The US left them hanging a few months ago, yet they were willing to ally with the US again. They may have felt that they had no choice but trying to hammer out agreements with Damascus and Baghdad for some kind of limited autonomy might have been the better approach. Trying to negotiate with Turkey would be a lost cause.

  11. Swami  •  Dec 20, 2018 @7:27 pm

    Jim Mattis just quit…I was hoping he would do that. It's good to see a former military man find the balls to tell Trump to stick it in his ass. That he's an ignorant bag of shit… who doesn't have a clue as to what he's doing.

    Well, it looks like Trump has partied through all "his" generals. And John the cur Kelly is the only one who understood the fine art of bootlicking. Yes sir, Mr Trump, I certainly won't let my dignity get in the way of your ego, sir. What color and how high?

  12. jrkrideau  •  Dec 21, 2018 @9:50 am

    @ Swami,

    I wonder if the main cadre of the Trump regime need to wear name tags? Turnover is so high that it must be difficult to remember who is in the next office this week, or this day.

    I never had much use for Mattis' policies but he was a bit of stability in a madhouse. In a way good for him  for leaving even this late date, but I think we can take it as given his replacement will be much worse.

    He could move Betsy DeVos to Defence. I am sure she knows as much about that department as she knows about her current one.

     

    BTW can some one point me to a resource on how to use tags here. Clearly I am messing up on them. Thanks.

  13. elkern  •  Dec 21, 2018 @1:11 pm

    It's a good thing that TVs (& radios & PCs) don't transmit smell.  The Pundits are running around with hair on fire, and the fumes would kill us all.  (oh, the hair-mane-ity!)

    I was annoyed to hear NPR interviewing some highly-qualified Neocon bureaucrat this morning, bemoaning the (announced/possible) withdrawal. 

    Whenever NPR & Fox agree, they're both wrong. 

    Trump is a bad president and a bad human, but getting US forces out of Syria is a Good Thing, long overdue.  ISIS is crippled, and Syria will finish them off faster than we would (US has let them survive in the SE corner of Syria to block the road between Damascus & Baghdad/Teheran).  It's a shame that we've screwed the Kurds – again – but if we really wanted to "give" them a country, we should have carved it out of Iraq.  Best option for Syrian Kurds now would be to cut a deal with Syrian Government and get Russia to keep Turkey from wiping them out (again?).