What will happen to Syria after U.S. pullout?
The United States will withdraw all of its troops from Syria, according to the White House. "Planning for the pullout is already underway," a US defense official and an administration official said.
One U.S. official said Washington aimed to withdraw troops within 60 to 100 days and said the U.S. State Department was evacuating all its personnel in Syria within 24 hours. A second official said they could leave even sooner. The U.S. has about 2,000 troops in Syria, where they are primarily training local forces to combat ISIS.
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered staff to execute the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of U.S. military from Syria. "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
But to some of Trump’s own national security advisers, the U.S. presence in Syria is really about combating Iranian influence. Several senior Trump officials have publicly stressed that point, including national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other senior Trump State Department officials who focus on Syria and Iran.
On Monday, U.S. Special Representative for Syrian Engagement James Jeffrey was advertising a diametrically opposed strategy. In a presentation at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Jeffrey said the United States would stay in Syria until three goals are met: ensuring the lasting defeat of the ISIS, rolling back Iranian influence and achieving a political solution to the crisis, the Washington Post reported.
"The strategy is to use these various levers, the lever of all these military forces running around … the fact that much of the territory and many of the more valuable resources such as oil and gas are not in the hands of the regime," to prevent the Assad regime, Russia and Iran from achieving total victory on their own terms, Jeffrey said.
The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Trump's statement would not necessarily be implemented. "I would not rush to conclusions. For the time being, in the "U.S. troops pullout in connection with America’s victory in the fight against ISIS" phrase I see the second element as a key one - Trump’s statement was made to portray the victory over the terrorists and join it. Americans want to declare that they fought against ISIS together with us and have won. What is going to happen to the U.S. troops in Syria is completely unclear," he said.
Head of the Friendship and business cooperation with Arab countries society Vyacheslav Matuzov, in turn, believes that the situation in Syria will improve after the U.S. troops withdrawal. "The main obstacle for the Syrian political settlement was the U.S. military presence, now the Kurds and the Syrian opposition will start behave differently, which opens the way for the completion of the process started in Sochi and Astana to resolve the crisis peacefully," he expects.
The orientalist explained Trump's decision by his agreements with Ankara. "Essentially, the U.S. administration was faced with a choice - either they lose Turkey as a strategic ally and active member of NATO in the Middle East, or they withdraw troops and leave the field for Turkey. It is important to understand that the withdrawal of U.S. troops is caused by a conflict of interests on the Kurdish issue between Turkey and the U.S.," Vyacheslav Matuzov concluded.