On Friday, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby said in an interview with CNN that President Trump’s “significant” sudden decision to swiftly withdraw American troops out of Syria was “part of Putin’s plan” and that it would have “serious repercussions.”
“What they’re specifically doing is asking Russia to lean on Assad to provide help. It’s very significant, and you’re seeing in real-time the ramifications of the president’s decision to abruptly withdraw those troops,” Kirby said. “It means the end of our credibility and any leverage we might have had in figuring out the future in Syria. The future of Syria has now come full circle. This is Putin’s plan.”
Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who are part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition battling ISIS and ISIL in the northern town of Manbij have had to ask the Syrian government for protection against a possible Turkish invasion following the sudden unexpected withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, has been backed by the Russian government during the Syrian civil war. The YPG, backed by U.S. forces, had previously seized control of north and east Syria and established a large section of sovereign rule, holding off Turkish-backed rebels to the north and Assad’s government loyalists to the south, according to The Telegraph.
Syrian troops arrived on Friday and deployed between the YPG and the Turkish-backed forces west of Manbij. The town of around 100,000 residents had fallen to rebel fighters in 2012, been overrun by ISIL in 2014, then captured by the SDF in 2016. Now it looks as if it will be reclaimed by the Assad regime.
“No one knows what to think as the regime has not yet arrived,” a resident of Manbij told the Telegraph. “Anyone with any connection to the revolution will probably try to leave soon, maybe for areas controlled by Turkey in the Euphrates Shield.”
“The YPG accepts drinking the poison to stop a massacre. Do you prefer your people to be massacred by a brutal dictator like Erdogan or be protected by a brutal dictator like Assad?” tweeted Kamal Chomani, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Russia welcomed the news of a U.S. withdrawal, with Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov describing it as “a positive step” that would “stabilize the situation.”
“An American withdrawal from Syria is the equivalent of handing Syria on a silver plate to Iran and its militias,” Muhannad al-Talaa, the commander of an Arab militia near the Iraqi border, told MSN. “If the U.S. withdraws and we are forced to leave, Iran will have a steady supplies route through Iraq to its militias and Hezbollah in Syria.”
“The Americans stabbed us in the back,” said Mohammed Jabr, a member of the military council in Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. “They played with us.”
President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria resulted in the abrupt resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on December 20, according to the New York Times.