Four Americans were killed in Manbij, Syria today — two soldiers, a Defense Department civilian, and a military contractor. The deaths were the result of a suicide bombing for which ISIS claimed responsibility. An undetermined number of Syrians, including some Kurdish fighters, also died.
The Washington Post suggests that the deaths cast doubt on the wisdom of President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria. Why? Because the bombing shows that ISIS “is likely to remain a force to be reckoned with in Syria for the foreseeable future.”
I think withdrawing from Syria is a mistake. But today’s bombing adds no force to the argument against withdrawal, in my view.
Terrorists can always blow stuff up. That ability doesn’t make them a force to be reckoned with by U.S. troops.
ISIS supporters have successfully committed terrorism in the U.S. They committed terrorism today in Syria despite the presence of U.S. forces. Terrorists blow stuff up regularly in Afghanistan despite 17 years of U.S. military presence there.
The purposes of having U.S. forces in Syria include preventing ISIS from reestablishing domination over territory; protecting our Kurdish allies, who fought alongside our forces against ISIS, from being massacred by Turkish forces; and blocking Iranian ambitions. They do not include guaranteeing that ISIS never succeeds in a suicide bombing.
What I found noteworthy in the Post’s article is this tidbit: “The four deaths doubled the total number of U.S. personnel killed by hostile fire in Syria since the deployment there began just over three years ago.” In other words, our military engagement in Syria has led to only eight American deaths in three years, and four of them occurred after Trump announced we are leaving.
The engagement is costing money, of course, but the case for withdrawal cannot plausibly rest on loss of American lives.