Has ISIS been defeated in Syria, as Trump claims?

By | December 19, 2018

The New York Times reports:

President Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of all 2,000 United States ground troops from Syria within 30 days, declaring the four-year American-led war against the Islamic State as largely won, officials said Wednesday.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president said in a Twitter post on Wednesday morning. He offered no details on his plans for the military mission, nor a larger strategy, in Syria.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that “we have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.”

But Pentagon officials who had sought to talk the president out of the decision as late as Wednesday morning argued that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey.

One American official said that Kurdish leaders were informed of the president’s decision on Wednesday morning. [Continue reading…]

Martin Chulov reports:

The Kurds, armed and supported by the US military have shouldered the burden of the war. The US proxy, known as the SDF, has lost more than 1,500 men in the four-year campaign to oust the extremists from eastern Syria.

The Kurds have always counted on being able to leverage the near-defeat of Isis into a deeper alliance with Washington and more of a say in the postwar fate of their corner of Syria.

But earlier this year, the fight against Isis slowed, as Turkey sent forces to oust Kurdish militants from an enclave in northwestern Syria. The US refused to intervene, prioritising its ties with Turkey over its new ally. That was a taste of things to come for Kurdish leaders, who claimed over the summer that they were “more mistress than bride”.

Even so, the elimination of Isis remained an imperative for the US, and there was still time for the Kurds to convince their partners to stay for the long haul. Or so they thought.

But the Trump move to withdraw troops from the region is a blatant betrayal that will leave the US searching for a new partner if it ever intends to return to finish the fight. It will leave the Turks with a free hand to attack their longtime foe the Kurdish militants and impose their will across the area. [Continue reading…]

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