President Trump’s Syria Surprise

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.

The 19 December announcement by President Trump to withdraw ground troops from Syria was surprising to everyone but should have come as a shock to no one.

Here’s why: First, ISIS may not be destroyed, but one is hard pressed to suggest that it remains an existential threat to the United States. The U.S. military has done a brilliant job working by, with and through their Iraqi and YPG counterparts and because of their successes, the ISIS caliphate no longer exists. While there are remaining pockets of ISIS fighters, there are plenty of alternatives to combat them. As Joshua Landis, the respected Syria analyst points out, the Turkish, local and/or Syrian forces should be the ones to finish the job, and there is nothing in the withdrawal plan which prevents the U.S. from providing intelligence, air strikes and other support from outside of Syria.

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