Saturday, April 07, 2018

With Benefits Like That, Who Needs Downsides?

I'm on record as wanting American forces to remain in Syria even after finally defeating ISIL in order to support the Kurds and Arabs who fought at our side in eastern Syria; as well as to have options to weaken and finally make good on President Obama's demand that Assad step down. The "benefits" of leaving don't seem that lasting.

President Trump has ordered the military to prepare marching orders to get out of Syria:

President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria but has not set a date for them to do so, according to a senior administration official.

In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, the official said.

Stratfor writes about the benefits and downsides of an American withdrawal from Syria as President Trump wants. The benefits:

A U.S. pullout from Syria could pave the way for an improvement in relations with Turkey and Russia.

The downside:

A withdrawal could also damage U.S. credibility, hamper the fight against the Islamic State and weaken Washington's ability to pressure Iran.

Given how Russia and Turkey are both treating America in an increasingly hostile manner, any improvement in relations with Turkey or Russia will consist entirely of the Turks and Russians being happy to score a win over America and thus being temporarily satisfied not to be hostile. But that won't last and the two will continue to push against us and alienate us.

The downsides are real. Who will help us if we abandon the anti-ISIL alliance in Syria to the tender mercies of the Assad-Russia-Iran-Hezbollah killing machine?

How will we continue to kill ISIL without allies on the ground in Syria? And will our Arab allies worried about Iran trust us to be there for the long haul?

And is it morally defensible to abandon allies to their deaths or exile?

I'd be more than happy to be able to leave Syria. And I'm sure we can certainly draw down strength now that the caliphate is largely collapsed.

But the multi-war is not over in Syria. Perhaps this is all just to get allied support for the post-ISIL mission rather than paying the price for the whole thing. France has expressed support for pursuing ISIL to scatter it even further to defeat the organization as well as the proto-state.

The Post article does address ongoing talks and expectations of allied help. I just can't tell if this is a negotiating tactic or a firm commitment to walk away. I suppose it is best if our allies can't tell, too, I guess.

I hope Trump doesn't really make good on his impulse to leave Syria unless it really is a temporary step to get out of harm's way in case of an Israeli war on Hezbollah.