This week’s reaction from President Trump’s abrupt tweets concerning troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan, are on the surface, concerning. However, there have been no details about either troop withdrawal strategy. To conclude a policy decision based on a Trump tweet, as many in the media seem to be doing, is nothing more than sensationalizing. The word “chaos” appears to be the word of choice by the media in describing Syria and Afghanistan with the recent announcement. One thing is for certain: there was chaos in both countries centuries before the U.S. intervened; there has been chaos- albeit more controlled-while he have been there, and there will be chaos if/whenever we leave.
The resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis appears to stem from a policy dispute about Syria and Afghanistan. The President would be wise to take counsel from the military commanders in formulating an exit strategy from either country. Both countries run the risk of quickly backsliding to a landscape favorable for the regrouping of terrorist organizations and factional and tribal warfare. President Trump, who criticized the Obama administration for their abrupt withdrawal of all ground forces from Iraq, which subsequently and undisputably led to the formation of ISIS, runs the risk of making the same disastrous foreign policy decision if his “tweet” is taken in context. The formation of ISIS could have been prevented if Obama had left a contingent of special forces/ops troops on the ground, as advised by the military leadership, to respond as a rapid reaction force to any attempts of terrorist groups reformimg and organizing in communities and on the ground in Iraq. a
In Syria, total withdrawal would play into the hands of the Iranians and Russians, both backers of the Assad regime, who never wanted the U.S. there in the first place. It would allow them to exert influence in the restructuring of Syria post civil war and give the Iranians a much stronger foothold in Syria and the region.
In Afghanistan, the Afghan military depends on the U.S. for training and recruiting, and there is some level of insurgency taking place in all of the 34 Afghanistan tribal Provinces. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Craig Nelson, the point was accurately made that the troop numbers have varied widely in the United State’s 17 years of involvement, and the Taliban was initially defeated by the Northern Alliance early on when we only had air power and several hundred special ops forces on the ground.
President Trump should seriously consider the options and advice as recommended by our military leadership to determine the best future force structures for both countries and abandon any thoughts of total withdrawal- at least during this critical phase of our presence in Syria and Afghanistan.
Photo credit: dwilson_CTG