On Wednesday, the White House announced that as far as the United States was concerned, the mission for its troops in Syria was over, with Daesh having been defeated, there is no longer a need for US military presence in the country. Certainly, taken at face value, the move from Washington seems a little premature at the very least. Yes, there are no longer large-scale confrontations taking place as the terrorists gave up the cities and towns they occupied in their evil quest to proclaim a ‘caliphate’ of their own shaping. But vast swathes of territory previously controlled by these maniacs remain vulnerable to insurgency attacks and are inherently unstable.
It seems too as if the decision by US President Donald Trump is at odds with the assessments of analysts in the Pentagon and those on the ground. There is indeed a sense of deja vu about this, having seen the then US president George W. Bush land on the deck of an American carrier and declare the mission in Afghanistan to be over. Former president Barack Obama too made a similar misspeak when he declared the US mission in Iraq over, drawing down America’s troop presence there. In both those cases, the subsequent events clearly showed that the comments from the US leaders were both premature and not on point.
The lessons from both Afghanistan and Iraq is that insurgents and those who are intent on bringing evil and extremism in all their vile forms are content to allow the US to draw down its forces, using the subsequent security vacuum as an opportunity to regroup and renew their malicious efforts. America pulling out at this time also hands Iran and its ally Russia a windfall. Tehran, whose proxies and militias are very active in Syria, will try and further entrench itself and extend its influence in the country. For Moscow, it is a signal that Russia will have an upper hand on Damascus in any post-war scenario.
The US presence in Syria offers a buffer too and bulwark for Kurdish forces who have endured and fought long and hard against Daesh, while also facing the prospect that their efforts would be opposed militarily by Turkish forces opposed to the notion of Kurdish independence or self-determination. Turkey obviously can’t wait for the American troops to pack up and leave.
One can only hope that this announcement from Washington will not come back to bite, sooner rather than later.