Ankara wins, Washington loses as U.S. announces withdrawal of troops from Syria - analysis

The United States’ announcement on Wednesday to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria signals a concession to Turkey while greatly undermining America’s already weak hand in the war-torn nation, Foreign Policy Magazine said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed U.S. troops are being withdrawn from Syria, hours after President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to say the Islamic State (IS) had been "defeated" in the war-torn country.

The move is another example of  Trump’s ‘’conducting policy by tweet without forewarning,’’ the magazine said, while underlining that the announcement confirmed multiple news reports that the administration is preparing for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from the region.

The withdrawal presents a prime opportunity for other actors in the region, such as Russia, Iran, and even the Islamic State itself, to take power, the magazine said, citing experts such as Gayle Tzemach Lemmon of the Council on Foreign Relations in Defense One.

“If Trump quits now, there are four winners: ISIS, Assad, Russia, and Iran,” Lemmon said.

Signalling tension between Trump and the Bolton-Pompeo camp, the move indicates that Defense Secretary James Mattis is increasingly ‘’asserting his influence over the president,‘’ the magazine noted.

The Defense Department has not confirmed the withdrawal or given a timeline for bringing troops home, it said, but it has stressed that the campaign against the Islamic State is far from over.

The U.S. president  has long been frustrated by the costs of the presence in Syria and the Middle East and the withdrawal would be a fulfillment of his 2016 campaign promise to wind down the Middle East wars.

The announcement of the withdrawal came several days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Trump reportedly discussed the Ankara’s concern regarding U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria in a telephone call, with analysts calling the decision by Washington,  ‘’yet another diplomatic victory for Erdoğan.’’

“Credit should be given to President Erdoğan, who appears to have been pivotal in convincing Trump to abandon the policy clearly articulated by Jeffrey and Bolton,” Foreign Policy quoted former CIA official Reuel Marc Gerecht, a scholar at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as saying.

According to Will Todman, an associate fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Middle East Program, said the decision was ‘’stunning,’’ and Ankara is sure to see the pending U.S. withdrawal from Syria as a green light to attack the Kurds.

The withdrawal, Todman said, signals the U.S. abandonment of the Kurds once again,  while setting the stage for a new race between Turkey and the Syrian regime in eastern Syria.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/19/trumps-stunning-about-face-on-syria-islamic-state-isis-trooops/