The Trump Trap: Troop Withdrawal from Syria Will Fuel ISIS Resurgence

Ali Javanmardi

 President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria following his telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan resulted in the October 10 Turkish military incursion into northern Syria. Leading the charge for the Turkish forces were allied Islamist groups—all avowed Jihadists opposed to the regime of Bashar Assad. In nine days of military skirmishes, aside from the military casualties, over one hundred innocent Kurdish civilians were killed with about three hundred thousand displaced and some two thousand square kilometers of northern Syrian territory occupied by Turkish forces.

After Erdogan met with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike on October 19 in Ankara, he announced that there would be a five-day cease-fire during which time the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were required to pull back twenty miles from the Turkish border.

On October 22, Erdogan met Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi for talks about Syria issue and reached an agreement to cooperate in driving the Kurds out of the twenty-mile zone. The Sochi agreement disregarded the fact that the SDF were the most effective force in defeating ISIS, and worse yet, large swaths of Kurdish areas, including the cities of Manbij and Tal Rafat that were parts of the autonomous Kurdish Rojava region established seven years ago, were included in the area to be cleansed of all Kurds.

About one thousand U.S. troops were positioned in northern Syria mostly to train SDF troops in order to prevent the re-emergence of ISIS and to guard the thousands that had already been captured. Seven hundred U.S. troops were withdrawn from Syria and three hundred pulled back to the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Iraqi Hashad al Sha’abi—a proxy militia trained and supported by the Iranian regime—have taken over the Sanjar region near the Syrian border. Iranian Quds forces have tried to gain overland access through this region to Aleppo in Syria and from their areas controlled by the Syrian government to complete the Shia Crescent that would connect Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

A route through northern Syria is critical to the establishment of this overland connection. Except for Hasakah province in northern Syria, the rest of the Syrian-Iraqi border is populated by Sunnis who are enemies of the Shia regime of Iran, on both sides of the border. With the U.S. forces gone, the way is clear for Iran to complete its plan.

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