Donald Trump’s snap decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and declare that ISIS has been defeated was made without the knowledge or input of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and shortly after a call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Washington Post.
It was known that Trump always intended to pull U.S. troops out, as he had said so many times on the campaign trail back in 2016. But the decision to announce an immediate withdrawal was apparently taken after a small White House meeting on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo both attended that meeting and it is reported that both advised the President not to pull troops out at this time.
Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN after the announcement that Mattis “firmly” believes that “the job in Syria is not yet done.” Graham added Mattis also believed that ISIS “could and probably will come back.”
“And I think that’s the universal view of both Pompeo and Mattis,” he added.
It is also believed that Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, has also advised against a swift withdrawal from Syria.
One notable absentee was Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chair of the joint chiefs of staff. According to the Washington Post, he only learned of the decision after it was made and had no opportunity to provide input himself.
Trump is reported not to have informed allies or other members of the Coalition in Syria before announcing his decision on Twitter either. It’s also thought that he did not discuss the matter with Congressional leaders who, under U.S. law, must be notified when the president introduces troops overseas.
The Washington Post also suggests that the idea that ISIS was now defeated could have come from Erdogan. Trump is reported to have spoken with Erdogan shortly before the meeting in the White House on Tuesday took place. However, Turkey reportedly has ulterior motives for wanting the U.S. to withdraw from Syria.
The U.S. has been backing Kurdish fighters in the region in the battle against ISIS. Turkey, however, has always viewed these Kurdish groups as terrorists. The withdrawal of the U.S. is likely to leave these Kurds, who have fought hard for the United States in Syria, exposed to a Turkish advance into Northern Syria.
As Bulent Aliriza, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Turkey Project in Washington, told Al Jazeera, there is “little doubt that [Erdogan] welcomes it as a major diplomatic gain [for Turkey].”
It is also believed that the narrative that Erdogan made the U.S. withdraw from Syria has played out well in Turkey and will only serve to entrench Erdogan’s authoritarian regime there.