On Monday, President Trump announced that his administration plans to withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. According to Fox News, there are approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria. Two U.S. officials from the Pentagon told Fox News that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw most of the U.S. troops within the coming days and weeks. This process could take weeks because the military would have to remove its equipment and vehicles, along with troops. However, a small amount of U.S. troops would be relocated to the At Tanf garrison, which is located in southern Syria. President Trump’s goal is to have a “small footprint” in Syria, referring to the decreasing number of U.S. troops present.
The United States has been active in Syria since 2014, this is due to the terrorist group ISIS taking over large parts of Syria and Iraq. U.S. troops formed a coalition with the Syrian Kurds to combat ISIS and take back their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq. The effort to fight ISIS required the United States to cooperate with Syrian Kurds and other Western powers, including France, Britain and Germany. Along with the increasing presence of ISIS at the time, the Syrian Civil War between the Assad Regime and ISIS also compounded the danger of the situation in Syria. ISIS had many territorial gains before the Trump Administration took over the Oval Office. In March 2019, it was noted that ISIS lost approximately 98% of its territorial gains, thus losing power in that region.
Critics of the Trump Administration’s decision to pull troops out of Syria cite the attack by Turkish forces on the Syrian Kurds as to why U.S. troops should have remained in Syria. Some U.S. troops who are currently in Syria are disappointed with the Trump Administration’s latest move. A special forces soldier told CNN that the events occurring in Syria are “pretty messed up right now” and that he and other soldiers “want to stay and offer support.” Many of the troops in Syria, U.S. military officials, and Americans believe that President Trump pulled troops out of Syria too hastily and in the “incorrect manner” according to multiple Democratic candidates in the October 15th debate. There are also many Americans who do not believe that U.S. troops should be in Syria but were unsatisfied with how President Trump went about pulling them out of Syria.
Two outspoken critics of the Trump Administration’s latest move regarding Syria are Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). According to CBS News, Senator Graham released a statement claiming that the Senate will introduce legislation which will receive bipartisan support to reverse the Trump Administration’s latest move in Syria. Senator Rubio also told CBS News that the Trump Administration made a “grave mistake” by pulling U.S. troops out of Syria.
The decision made by the Trump Administration was not an easy one. The two opposing groups, the Turks and the Syrian Kurds, are both deemed to be U.S. allies. According to CNN, Turkish forces launched airstrikes in Northern Syria against the Kurds following President Trump’s announcement that his administration would pull many of its troops out of Syria. Turkey, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), faced backlash from its fellow NATO members. After the airstrikes, Turkey was urged by other NATO countries “to act with restraint and ensure that any actions taken in Northern Syria are measured and calculated,” according to CNN.
Without their main ally, the Syrian Kurds are forced to align themselves with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s regime backed by Russia and Iran. The Turkish forces are more than capable of outperforming the Syrian Kurds on the battlefield. Critics of the Trump Administration’s plan to pull troops out of Syrian say that Turkey now has a free pass to force the Syrian Kurds out of their territory, which is east of the Euphrates River, according to CBS.