The Syria Scorecard 14 Months On

By Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret.)

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans at US Central Command, Deputy Director of Operations for Coalition Forces in Iraq and significant command assignments worldwide. He currently leads a private consulting business for US clients in the Middle East and provides regional security commentary on Arabic, Turkish and English-speaking media channels worldwide.

OPINION — On 19 December 2018, President Donald Trump announced a withdrawal of American Troops from Syria, setting off fierce criticism that led to the resignation of Special Envoy Brett McGurk and Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis. This criticism paled in comparison to the 6 October 2019 statement from the White House declaring the US would not interfere in the Turkish military operation to establish a 30 km buffer zone within northern Syria.

If the December 2018 decision saw a flurry of criticism, the October 2019 decision brought on a firestorm of condemnation from the US foreign policy establishment, the press and within Congress.  After declaring “100% of the ISIS Caliphate defeated”, the US would step aside to allow Turkey to eliminate a group of predominately Kurdish fighters that Ankara considered terrorists, but had served as key US allies on the ground since 2014. Supporters of President Trump’s decision cited the completion of the mission set out by President Barack Obama, support for a key NATO ally and an example of ending “forever wars”. Critics claimed it was betrayal of a close ally, damaging to US prestige and would result in the return of the ISIS caliphate.

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.

Sign Up Log In

Related Articles