The U.S. withdrawal from Syrian might not be as precipitous as it was originally described by President Trump. It also may not be as complete.
Yesterday, during a visit to Israel where he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, John Bolton outlined objectives that must be met before the U.S. withdraws from Syria. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement,” he explained.
One objective, of course, is the comprehensive defeat of ISIS in Syria. Bolton acknowledged that pockets of ISIS remain.
The other main objective identified by Bolton is protection of our ally, the Kurds. Bolton stated:
It’s also very important that as we discuss with members of the coalition, [and] other countries that have an interest, like Israel and Turkey, that we expect that those who have fought with us in Syria . . . particularly the Kurds [not be put in] jeopardy.
I don’t see how a complete U.S. withdrawal can be accomplished without putting the Kurds in serious jeopardy at the hands of Turkey. Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters we’re allied with as separatists and terrorists. Thus, the Turks cannot reasonably be expected to forebear from attacking the Kurdish forces if the U.S. is out of the picture.
If Bolton is serious about protecting the Kurds, and if he’s speaking for President Trump, we won’t be withdrawing from Syria in the foreseeable future.
But what does Trump think? I don’t know and I’m not sure he does. Yesterday he said he remains committed to the withdrawal but that “I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”
Actually, he did say this. On December 19, he tweeted: “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re coming back and they’re coming back now.”
Fortunately, we need not take this statement literally. How seriously we should take it remains to be seen.