Cato Senior Fellow, A. Trevor Thrall writes that President Trump’s instincts on Syria are correct, but if the past is prologue, America will wind up stuck in the country anyway. The longer America remains engaged in Syria, the greater the likelihood of a mistake that puts Americans in combat with forces from Russia, Iran, or even Turkey. Thrall writes (abridged):
Although the Trump administration had originally planned on keeping U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely, last week Trump surprised his own security advisers, telling them that he wants ISIS defeated and a full withdrawal by 2018, ordering the State Department to suspend $200 million in recovery and humanitarian assistance to Syria, and telling reporters that the troops would be pulling out of Syria “very soon.”
If recent American experience is any guide, however, the United States will wind up stuck in Syria despite Trump’s instincts and best efforts. Now, after another chemical weapon attack, the United States may even find itself escalating its efforts in Syria.
Trump is correct to want a speedy withdrawal. The Islamic State in Syria has been rousted from its physical “caliphate” and its remnants are on the run.
Syria’s civil war still rages and there is no real chance for the United States to shape the political future of Assad or of Syria. Meanwhile the probability of deadly encounters with Russia, Iran and even Turkey remains very high for the foreseeable future.
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