U.S. can withdraw from Syria if it ‘accepts Assad in power’ - analyst

There is a clear path for the United States to get cleanly out of Syria, but only if it is willing to accept a peace deal that keeps Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, wrote Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think-tank.

The United States has begun training its allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-dominated coalition in northeastern Syria, to dig in and adopt defensive tactics for the long haul. That was in line with a shift in policy committing U.S. forces to remaining in SDF-held areas in order to help the group defeat Islamic State and ward off Assad’s forces, Stein said.

“The United States has a clear path to withdrawal: a negotiated settlement between the SDF and the regime. Moscow shares this narrow interest,” Stein said.

“The two sides diverge on the question of whether Assad should remain in power. The Trump administration is committed to a transfer of power, so compromise may be hard to swallow in Washington.”

Unlike most opposition groups, the SDF has never committed itself to regime change.

“Instead, it has maintained a relatively stable non-aggression pact with the regime, and the two sides have managed to prevent unintended military escalation during times of tension,” Stein said.

In contrast, Stein said, Turkey’s allies among the Syrian opposition in the northwest of the country were committed to overthrowing Assad.

“This may make the Turkish positions in Syria untenable and could eventually result in a regime-led offensive to clear territory where Turkish-backed groups are dominant,” he said.