By Claude Salhani
US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, shocking allies and stunning top advisers, who all seem to disagree with Trump’s knee-jerk policy call.
Desperate for a political victory, Trump is using a foreign policy issue, ordering US forces out of Syria, a decision that goes counter to the advice of top Pentagon officials and the counsel of US allies.
The commander-in-chief appears to be struggling for a clear-cut political victory he can claim as his own before the end of the year. Having failed to repel or replace Obamacare, the health-care system overhaul law established by former President Barack Obama, Trump has focused on immigration and the wall he wants to see built along the US-Mexico border.
However, with the Democrats soon to be in control of the House of Representatives, it is unlikely there will be another brick in the wall anytime soon. So Trump said he wanted the US military to build him that wall. That is unlikely since the US military does not have authority to carry out such functions on US soil.
Coming under increased pressure and scrutiny over allegations of colluding with Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 US presidential elections and with investigations closing in on him, compiled with his having a hard time finding adequate replacements for key positions in the White House, Trump is badly in need of something that will make him look good. His ego demands it. His ego craves it.
So, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he turned to foreign affairs and — seemingly without consultation with the US State Department or the Department of Defence — decrees that the 2,000 or so US military personnel deployed in Syria are to withdraw. His unilateral and impulsive decision “showed little sign of nuanced consideration and confounded top advisers,” said CNN.
Trump rationalises his decision by claiming that the Islamic State has been defeated but senior Pentagon officials contest that point, saying there are 30,000-40,000 Islamic State fighters in that part of Syria. Part of the mission undertaken by the US military in Syria was to train local forces but top US military officials with responsibility for US presence in Syria said the training of local forces is only about 40% completed.
Some officials called Trump’s order for removal of US forces from Syria “a mistake of gigantic proportion.’’
It serves no greater purpose to recall the troops other than to satisfy the president’s inflated belief of himself and to believe he knows better that anyone else, regardless of the topic.
A typical Trump line goes like this: “Believe me no one knows more than I do about (insert topic here).” It could be health care, the military, campaign finance reform or any other subject matter. No one knows better than Trump.
US military leaders are worried by the president’s announcement, saying it sends the wrong message, basically telling the Russians and the Iranians that the United States is ceding the role it played in the Middle East to Moscow and Tehran. Both Russia and Iran have challenged the United States for greater influence in the region. It appears that the United States has blinked first.
Another devastating outcome of his decision is its effect on the Kurds, who have been fighting alongside US forces in Syria. The US pullout from Syria once again leaves the Kurdish forces out to dry and in the shadow of Turkish tanks and armour. With the departure of American forces, it is only a matter of time before Turkey sets its sights on the Kurds.
How does Trump justify abandoning people who have proven to be faithful allies? A request from Turkey to purchase US Patriot missile defence systems, which will bring in a few million dollars into the US coffers. Blood money.
A sad day, indeed, for US diplomacy and a sad day for those who expected to be shown the road to democracy. Instead, they will be abandoned to the authoritarian and militaristic designs of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.