Mission Accomplished? Why Trump Cannot Withdraw Troops in Syria

Written by: Daniel Yun

On January 16th, 2019 four American troops were killed by an Islamic State suicide bomber in Syria. This incident came weeks after President Donald Trump declared the war against ISIS (ISIL or the Islamic State) won and ordered the withdrawal of American troops. The withdrawal process has already started with American equipment withdrawal out of Syria. As a result, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk resigned in protest over Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 American special forces operators currently in Syria.  

Although American forces have not withdrawn from Syria, President Trump should reverse his decision or delay troop withdrawal long enough so that a stable Syrian state can combat the Islamic State without American assistance. President Trump should be reminded that his declaration of victory is eerily analogous to former President George H.W Bush’s mission accomplished speech after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

The recent ISIS State attack in Syria was a wake-up call that ISIS is not defeated. The Islamic State still hold pockets of territory in Syria and is conducting a guerilla warfare campaign in Iraq. Additionally, the United States cannot rely on the Russians, Turks, or Bashar Al- Assad’s regime to contain and combat ISIS. President Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad are focused on defeating the remaining Syrian rebels while the Turkish forces under President Erdogan have higher priorities in Syria such as fighting Kurdish forces. The only group that the United States can trust are the Syrian Kurds. However, without American troop presence in Syria, the Kurds can be attacked by Turkey because they are considered terrorists. Also, geopolitically President Erdogan does not want to have a Kurdish State on his borders. In fact, President Erdogan denied meeting with National Security Advisor John Bolton after he proposed that Turkey needs to guarantee Kurdish protection in exchange for American withdrawal. Overall without American troops, the situation in Syria will be messier and possibly leave a void wide enough for the Islamic State to recuperate. 

The United States has fought in unsustainable conflicts throughout the Middle East since 9/11. Although many Americans want to completely withdraw troops from the Middle East, ultimately as of right now, American troop withdrawal in Syria would be detrimental to U.S national security. One of the main reasons why is that ISIS is a terrorist organization that is committed ideologically to attack Americans. Additionally, the mistakes of former president Barak Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2011 allowed ISIS to flourish should be a warning to Trump and violated human rights through their methods of terror. Furthermore, ISIS is an illegitimate state that is unrecognized by the international community and will destabilize the Middle East if they regain a permanent foothold.

To prevent an ISIS attack on American soil, American troop deployment must be continued not halted. By attacking ISIS leadership and communication networks, the terrorist organization will be unable to plan an attack outside of the Middle East. Already six U.S serviceman have died fighting ISIS in Syria. President Trump should reverse his decision right now so that their sacrifices will not be in vain.