Donald Trump has given “new life” to ISIS and other Middle Eastern terrorist groups, says the former head of the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, in a Washington Post op-ed piece.
Last month, as reported at the time by the Inquisitr, McGurk, who had served as the head of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (“ISIL” being another term for ISIS) since the Obama administration, abruptly announced his departure following Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria. The move came days after Trump announced, out of nowhere and seemingly with no prior consultation with his advisers in the Pentagon, that the U.S. had achieved victory over ISIS and would be pulling out U.S. troops immediately.
Now, McGurk writes that Trump’s decision has emboldened ISIS.
“The irony is that defeating the Islamic State is what the president said from the beginning was his goal. In 2016, he vowed to ‘knock the hell out of ISIS.’ His recent choices, unfortunately, are already giving the Islamic State — and other American adversaries — new life.”
Just two days ago, a suicide bomber detonated his vest outside of a popular restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, killing four Americans and 10 others. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
McGurk goes on to write that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria creates a power vacuum, one likely to be filled by various groups with interests conflicting against those of the U.S.
“It’s not a coincidence that Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates reopened embassies there shortly after Trump said we were leaving. These countries, as well as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, believe that engaging Damascus can help dilute Russian, Iranian and Turkish influence in Syria, and they are discounting contrary views from Washington.”
There’s also the problem of Turkey. McGurk suggests that Trump made the decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which Erdogan suggested that Turkey take the fight against ISIS deep into Syria. Why Trump would conclude from that that U.S. troops should depart the area remains unclear, but regardless: Turkey being the dominant military presence in the region, rather than the U.S., can muck things up further.
“In fact, Turkey can’t operate hundreds of miles from its border in hostile territory without substantial U.S. military support. And many of the Syrian opposition groups backed by Turkey include extremists who have openly declared their intent to fight the Kurds, not the Islamic State.”
Regardless of McGurk’s opposition, however, the pullout from Syria appears to be happening. As CNN reports, although about 2,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground in Syria, with no immediate timetable for withdrawal in place, already some military equipment is starting to be removed from the area.