Let’s start with the basics. If anybody thinks that just 2000 American Troops and 18 on-ground Advisors can guarantee peace in a country of 18 million plus, one needs to revisit the university freshman year book of geopolitical history and specially the chapter on Middle Eastern war strategies and the American involvement. I am no history expert but i surely did not miss that class in my university.
Since that doubt is out of the way that the presence of the American troops was more of window dressing than the actual guarding of the window, let’s move on to analyzing the real reason. Why would Trump make such a hasty decision albeit a seemingly important one. Why would he alienate his long standing allies against ISIS, Britain, Israel and France. So much so that Macron of France has questioned the reliability and dependability of America as an ally in Syria.
Not only did Trump irritate his allies, his own Cabinet Member, General Mattis offered his resignation. Pentagon has made no official statement except saying on the record that it has no official statement to make. That in itself is a very serious statement because Pentagon is never shy of making strong and decisive statements when it comes to Syria. Trumps’ Defence advisors are hiding from media appearances for the first time as well. The staunch Republican Senator, Lindsay Graham came out batting against Trump and hit the ball out of the park by openly saying that Trump is “Blindsided”.
While on one side, Nancy Pelosi, The Democratic Leader in the House and Graham in the Senate are both not happy along with the allies around the world, Trump made a statement saying..
“We have won against ISIS.”
And unofficial Pentagon statements being leaked say that he wants the troop withdrawal completed within 30 days. Now that is a rush based withdrawal. But what is the rush ? Such a quick withdrawal has historic accounts as well. Obama withdrew out of Iraq in 2011 and the U. S. lost all its gained territory back into the hands of several factions. Plunging Iraq into further chaos. But the number of troops in Iraq were far greater than a mere 2000 in Syria.
Who Controls What In Syria ?
If you look at the map of Syria, you come to understand that the American troops had little to no control of any territory.
Rebels controlled Idlib and Alleppo. The Kurds, who seem to be the most angered from this decision of American troops leaving Syria, control, Raqqa, Manbij, Hasaka and Qamishli. The Syrian government controls the biggest chunk, with the support of Russia and Iran. Hamma, Homs, Palmyra, Deir Al-Zour, Albu Kamal, Sweida, Damascus and Dara’a.
ISIS controls not even 5% of the territory together. And Trump knows this. Trump knows that the American troops have no real consequential value in Syria except the withdrawal of it will make huge news. We will come to the conclusion, what I think, in a minute as to why Trump decided to withdraw the troops. But let’s discuss the consequences of this decision outside of America and on the world political scene.
Consequences Of This Withdrawal.
There are absolutely two different consequences of this decision in my view. One that relates to the world and it seriously questions the credibility of an American commitment in the future around the word, specially creating a trust deficit in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. And the other consequence is domestic. More of a benefit than a consequence. Let me correct myself here.
Kurds who were allies and dependent on America for their survival will be at the biggest risk. Turkey will openly attach and annihilate them. No two ways about it there.
Iran and Russia will dance in joy. Both wanted a superiority over the West in Syria. This superiority is more than just a territorial superiority. This is a superiority of a narrative. A narrative which says that America is undependable, pokes its nose in internal matters of other countries thousands of miles away from its borders and that it is not sincere and can leave you abandoned at anytime.
Vietnam in the 70’s, Afghanistan in the 80’s. Columbia in the late 80’s. Iraq in 2000’s. And the list goes on and on to support this narrative from Africa to South America to The Middle East that America will leave you hanging high & dry.
Then why would Trump risk all that what America stands for, at least in its PR stunts, to the world and make such a hasty decision.
This is not a hasty decision at all in my humble opinion. In my opinion this is a decision of “Personal Interest” over “National Interest”. Trump has made this decision knowing that going into 2019, facing a Democratic controlled Congress, chances of impeachment at its peak, Mueller probe producing results, he needs American peoples support at large and he needs to divert public attention from his legal pressures at home, this very moment.
And nothing gives an American President more support than the troops coming back home, no matter how small in number let alone the withdrawal from an entire country. Trump chose himself over the American reputation and the consequences of his decision in the long run and the trust deficit it will create amongst his allies. He can fix the trust deficit if he survives, maybe that is what he is thinking, but he cannot fix anything if he loses support from the people in the face of an ongoing legal battle, not month by month or week by week, but day by day now.
So there is no need to look too much into it and no need to over think on this matter. For the first time, an American President has chosen himself in absoluteness over choosing the national interest. Maybe rubbing shoulders with too many Middle Eastern Monarchs, Trump has caught the virus of putting personal survival over what the world thinks or does.
Trump has never ceased to amaze us in the past and he is NOT stopping anytime soon.
Author: Mir Mohammad AliKhan