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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "withdrawal"

Morning Consult: Only 37% support Syria pullout, but 67% agree with Trump on exiting foreign conflicts

Westlake Legal Group trump-bidens Morning Consult: Only 37% support Syria pullout, but 67% agree with Trump on exiting foreign conflicts withdrawal The Blog Syria polls morning consult ISIS Iraq interventionism donald trump

Perhaps this difference in the latest Morning Consult poll highlights the political dangers of putting popular concepts into hard reality. Donald Trump campaigned energetically on the argument that the US had overextended itself into too many places and needlessly entangled itself in foreign conflicts without any direct benefit. On that point, Trump finds two-thirds of Americans in agreement.

It’s when he put that policy into action in Syria that it became a problem, although perhaps not much of one:

Few voters are on board with President Donald Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that also shows fatigue over the nation’s military entanglements around the world.

Only 37 percent of voters support Trump’s decision regarding Syria, the poll shows, fewer than the 43 percent who oppose it. But a sizable number, 20 percent, say they don’t have an opinion about Trump’s decision.

That 37/43 split in itself is curious. Apart from impeachment, the betrayal of the Kurds and the forfeit to Turkey has been the dominant story for the White House the past fortnight. Having the Russians cross over to secure the middle ground between the Turks and the Kurds can’t paint this in any better light for Trump either. And yet, opposition to the policy only exceeds support by six points, with a fifth of Americans not caring much about it at all.

That’s likely because of rising skepticism of interventionism overall, a trend into which Trump tapped successfully three years ago, and which he tapped again today in his speech on the Syria withdrawal :

But while there is little public support overall for Trump’s decision, he is trying to tap a vein of U.S. public opinion that is skeptical of the country’s numerous military entanglements overseas. Two in three voters, 67 percent, agree that the U.S. is engaged in too many foreign conflicts, the poll shows.

So how did opposition to the Syria pullout get to 43%? And, for that matter, how did support fall thirty points below the level of those who think we’re overstretched? Mathematically, the opposition to it has to include a significant number of people who want to pull out of current conflicts in some manner, and nearly half of the people overall who took that position think something else about Syria.

There are three factors that might be impacting this, either simultaneously or one at a time. First, some might be reacting less to the policy than its execution. The withdrawal was hastily adopted, appeared unplanned, and our allies hadn’t been consulted. Even if one was inclined to argue that we needed to find an exit out of Syria, the method Trump chose was arguably among the worst of all choices.

On policy, some might think that Syria actually did involve key national-security interests for the US and its regional allies. The fight against ISIS isn’t over, and we hadn’t even figured out how to dispose of over 11,000 detainees from the collapse of the caliphate before allowing the Turks to attack their jailers. Furthermore, our withdrawal makes it easier for Iran to establish and strengthen its “land bridge” to the Mediterranean and to encircle Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Third, it seems likely that some of this vacillation is simply a reaction to Trump himself. Only 15% of Hillary Clinton voters from 2016 and 22% of Barack Obama voters from 2012 approve of Trump’s pullout from Syria. However, 65% and 68% respectively think the US is engaged in too many foreign conflicts; those gaps are wider than the overall gap between the two positions, which suggest that it’s more Orange Man Bad than the policy or the execution.

That’s not to say that the execution has been good, however. After getting blasted for pulling out of Syria and leaving the ISIS remnants to regroup, the White House claimed that the troops would simply move into Iraq to keep the pressure on against the terror network. The hell you are, came the reply from Iraq to Defense Secretary Mark Esper:

U.S. troops leaving Syria are only “transiting” through Iraqi territory and will depart within four weeks, Iraq’s defense minister said Wednesday. …

The Pentagon chief said earlier this week that the troops leaving Syria would reposition to western Iraq to continue fighting the Islamic State. But on Tuesday, he appeared to backtrack, saying that American forces would stay only temporarily.

Iraq’s military opposed the move, saying in a statement that the newly arrived U.S. forces would have to leave.

“There is no agreement for these forces to stay in Iraq,” the statement said.

The policy may or may not be correct, but the execution has been terrible.

The post Morning Consult: Only 37% support Syria pullout, but 67% agree with Trump on exiting foreign conflicts appeared first on Hot Air.

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Breaking: Trump defends Syria withdrawal, announces Turk-Kurd permanent ceasefire agreement

Westlake Legal Group trump-syria Breaking: Trump defends Syria withdrawal, announces Turk-Kurd permanent ceasefire agreement withdrawal Turkey The Blog Syria Kurds donald trump cease fire

It’s too early for congratulations, Donald Trump admits, but his presser this morning definitely had the look of a victory lap. Trump announced that the temporary cease-fire between Turkey and the Kurdish forces in Syria has now been made permanent in a new agreement. Trump insisted that his decision to abruptly withdraw from the contested border areas created the opening for potential peace in the region.

“This was an outcome created by us, the United States, and nobody else. No other nation,” Trump claimed, while blaming the countries in the region for involving us in their “ancient tribal conflicts.” Declaring that his course will always be “victory for America,” Trump said that he would ensure that American troops would only be deployed in the future in service to a “vital national interest,” and only when a path to victory is clearly defined:

Even if the ceasefire collapses, Trump noted, we won’t come back. “Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand,” Trump declared, and called on other nations to do their part in policing peace. That has its own implications for the region; which nations will fill the vacuum left behind the US withdrawal? Do we really want Iran and/or Russia becoming the policeman in the region? Saudi Arabia already has enough of Iran playing policeman in Yemen and parts of Syria, and Jordan and Israel won’t much care for that idea either.

However, this is entirely consistent with Trump’s election campaign rhetoric. In fact, this speech sounded almost like a sequel to his 2016 agenda, with claims of progress and determination to get the rest of it accomplished. Clearly the criticism from both sides of the aisle over his Syria withdrawal has not dented Trump’s resolve to see through his disengagement policies; it sounds more like he’s doubling down and hoping to accelerate the process.

The government in Afghanistan is no doubt getting more nervous after this speech, and they should be. Whether the government in Ankara is at all nervous about Trump’s threat of economic war as a consequence of violating the ceasefire remains to be seen, but I doubt the Kurds are anywhere near as grateful as Trump claimed.

Update: Here are Trump’s full remarks, but you need to skip to the -26:00 mark to get to them.

The post Breaking: Trump defends Syria withdrawal, announces Turk-Kurd permanent ceasefire agreement appeared first on Hot Air.

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Kurds throw potatoes at U.S. convoy leaving northern Syria

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I can’t believe you-know-who hasn’t already tweeted out these clips this morning calling the Kurds “INGRATES!”

He’ll get around to it eventually. He’s probably busy cooking up something good about Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter feed.

The bad news is that the Kurds left behind in northern Syria will shortly be fed into Erdogan’s meat grinder unless Putin comes up with a way to restrain him in their summit tomorrow. The good news is that a few hundred U.S. troops will remain in parts of Syria to secure something more precious than human life — sweet, sweet oil:

President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, perhaps numbering about 200, to combat the Islamic State and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s coveted oil fields, a senior administration official said on Sunday…

The senior administration official said it was highly likely that troops would be kept along the Iraqi border area — away from the cease-fire zone that Vice President Mike Pence negotiated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey last week. The main goal would be to prevent the Islamic State from re-establishing all or parts of its religious state, or caliphate, in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

A side benefit would be helping the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the east, the official said.

So that’s what he meant by those mysterious “we have secured the oil” comments over the past few days. Whatever the reason, it’s at least some comfort that Americans will remain in place to snuff out the ISIS brush fires that’ll start now that the Kurds aren’t around in the north.

It sounds like the Kurds won’t let their hard feelings about the American pullout in the north stop them from continuing to partner with American troops in the east. They need those oil fields, after all, and it’d be foolish to reject U.S. help out of pride at a moment when it’s unclear how far Erdogan — or Assad, or Russia, or ISIS — might try to advance into Kurdish territory. Even a weak American commitment is worth something in deterrence, especially with Trump under pressure from his own party not to retreat further. If Kurdish forces rejected his offer of help in the east, it’d be a perfect pretext for him to withdraw from Syria entirely:

The commander of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazlum Kobani, whose fighters switched sides to join Syrian government forces after Mr. Trump announced the American withdrawal, said on Saturday that despite the Turkish offensive, his troops had resumed counterterrorism operations near Deir al-Zour.

American officials widely interpreted the comments as a signal to Washington that the Syrian Kurds were still willing to fight in partnership with the United States against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, despite their abandonment in other parts of the country.

A Kurdish official told the AP that Kurdish forces are complying with Trump’s ceasefire with Erdogan by withdrawing from the buffer zone near the border. The issue for the Kurds isn’t keeping their *troops* in place, it’s keeping Kurdish *civilians* who live in the area in place. Military withdrawal is one thing, ethnic cleansing is another. The commander of Kurdish forces reportedly emphasized this to Lindsey Graham in a call on Friday:

Are we headed towards a proposal for international peacekeepers in the border buffer zone? The Kurds might agree to that. Trump certainly would agree to it, so long as those peacekeepers aren’t American. Would Erdogan agree? How about Putin? Maybe Russian soldiers can walk the beat as Erdogan resettles millions of Syrian refugees in the area and ethnic tensions with the Kurds gradually begin to rise.

The post Kurds throw potatoes at U.S. convoy leaving northern Syria appeared first on Hot Air.

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Turkey’s hat trick: US troops leaving Syria as Kurds head south

Westlake Legal Group Turkey Turkey’s hat trick: US troops leaving Syria as Kurds head south withdrawal Turkey The Blog Syrian Kurds Syria Russia Recep Tayyip Erdogan Lindsey Graham Bashar al-Assad

The situation in northeastern Syria remains in flux on an hour by hour basis. There’s still a semi-official “ceasefire” in place, largely being enforced by the Russians, but that’s only scheduled to hold for another couple of days at most. Just since I went to bed last night, two more big (and disturbing) developments took place. The first was an announcement from the Defense Department that all – or at least most – of the United States troops in Syria would be withdrawing to Western Iraq. If there was any question as to whether or not we’d be backing up the Kurds, it appears that ship has sailed. (Associated Press)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under the current plan all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq, and that the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent a resurgence in that country.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to the Middle East, Esper did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he said those details will be worked out over time.

We’re supposedly reserving the option to run counterterrorism operations back into Syria from Iraq, which I suppose is plausible. And we’re probably going to need that option now that hundreds if not thousands of ISIS prisoners have reportedly hit the road. But if we’re not directly supervising the terrorist cleanup operations and the Kurds aren’t around to do it (more on that in a moment), who’s going to take care of that responsibility? The Turks? The Russians? I’m not exactly brimming with confidence over either possibility.

Getting back to the question of the Kurds, after initially announcing that they’d struck a deal to work with Bashar al Assad’s forces, they are now reportedly evacuating the border region and heading south.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official says his forces will pull back from a border area in accordance with a U.S.-brokered deal after Turkey allows the evacuation of its remaining fighters and civilians from a besieged town there.

Redur Khalil, a senior Syrian Democratic Forces official, said Saturday the plan for evacuation from the town of Ras al-Ayn is set for the following day, if there are no delays.

He says only after that will his force pull back from a 120-kilometer (75-mile) area between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal-Aybad. It will withdraw and move back from the border 30 kilometers (19 miles).

This is quite a reversal of policy. Up until now, the Kurds had only been evacuating civilians, claiming that they would stick around the meet the Turks on the field of battle. But with Russian and Syrian forces tossed into the mix, the writing may have been on the wall.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just a reshuffling of military assets. The Kurds have been living in that region for generations and were well established there. Assuming Turkey allows them to withdraw safely, they will have basically committed ethnic cleansing of an entire region in a matter of weeks. But there’s also no assurance that the Kurdish forces will even be allowed to leave peacefully. As of this morning, the AP is reporting that several towns, including Ras al-Ayn, are completely surrounded without an escape corridor to the south.

So at this point, Turkey has indeed pulled off a hat trick of sorts, flushing out the Americans, putting the Syrian forces in a subservient position and preparing to either drive out the Kurds or wipe them out when the ceasefire ends. They’ve also solidified their military alliance with the Russians at the same time. (Erdogan is meeting with Putin in Sochi on Tuesday.) How this could have ended more badly for U.S. and western interests is difficult to imagine.

The post Turkey’s hat trick: US troops leaving Syria as Kurds head south appeared first on Hot Air.

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Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety

Westlake Legal Group bolton-netanyahu Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety YPG withdrawal The Blog Syria Kurds john bolton Israel donald trump Benjamin Netanyahu

The withdrawal from Syria looks less imminent and more aspirational with every frequent-flier mile John Bolton picks up. Donald Trump’s national-security advisor met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel yesterday to discuss plans for the region, including a withdrawal from “northeast Syria,” as Bolton specified in a joint presser. Furthermore, the US wouldn’t withdraw any troops until Turkey provided security for US allies in the region — which is the equivalent of never:

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday outlined conditions for a U.S. troop departure from Syria that appeared to contradict President Trump’s insistence less than a month ago that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

Speaking during a visit to Israel, Bolton said that certain “objectives” must be achieved before a pullout could take place. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.” …

“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” by the withdrawal, said Bolton, who plans to travel Tuesday to Ankara.

Bolton has changed the terms of this decision dramatically since Trump announced it three weeks ago. At the time, Trump declared that we had beaten ISIS and there was no need for us to stick around, later softening the first part to say that Turkey and Syria could mop up the rest of ISIS. Over the past week, Bolton has acknowledged that ISIS is not yet vanquished and still has the capacity for “reviving” itself; US allies in the region still require our protection; and that the withdrawal is limited to “northeastern Syria.” The latter is undoubtedly a gesture to Netanyahu, who would have to ensure that a pullout of American forces and allies in southern Syria didn’t give Iran a foothold from which to launch attacks on Israel.

Trump himself seems to be backpedaling a bit too, at least on the timeline:

Trump also commented Sunday on the timing of the withdrawal. “I never said we’d be doing it that quickly,” the president said from the White House. “We won’t be finally pulled out, until ISIS is gone.”

The remark came in contrast to the president’s statement from Dec. 19., when he said the withdrawal would happen quickly and that the U.S. had defeated ISIS. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now,” Trump said at the time. “We won.”

Everyone’s slowing their roll now, and with Bolton heading to Ankara, that roll will come to a complete stop. Recep Tayyip Ergodan considers the YPG to be a part of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that both Turkey and the US consider to be a terrorist organization. The US position on the YPG became considerably more nuanced once it became clear that they were the only group that could lead urban assaults on ISIS, and our alliance brought howls of protest from Ankara all along.

If the US plans on making a withdrawal conditional on Turkish guarantees of safety for the YPG in Syria, one of two things will happen. Either we will never withdraw from “northeastern Syria,” or we will stand by and watch our anti-ISIS allies get massacred as Turkey reneges on any security pledge they make. Want to guess which way our Kurdish allies are betting?

Update: Jeff Dunetz has a good analysis about Bolton’s trip and policies in a different context.

The post Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety appeared first on Hot Air.

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NBC: Trump admin retreating on Syria withdrawal?

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Somewhere, Lindsey Graham draws a sigh of relief. John Bolton has set out on a trip to explain Donald Trump’s plans on Syria to our allies, who were caught flat-footed by his announcement of withdrawing completely from the ISIS battleground. A source within the administration tells NBC News that Bolton will outline a plan with a much longer timetable for withdrawal — and perhaps an indefinite timetable for part of Syria:

Some U.S. troops could remain in southern Syria for an undetermined amount of time even as American forces withdraw in coming months from the northern part of the country, a senior administration official said Friday.

President Donald Trump announced last month that he was withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria immediately but has since softened the timing to say the drawdown will happen more slowly.

The U.S. has no timeline for Trump’s order of a complete troop withdrawal but believes the remaining pockets of ISIS in Syria can be eliminated in a matter of weeks, said the senior administration official, who was traveling with national security adviser John Bolton on a trip aimed at clarifying the new policy for America’s allies.

That’s a bit different than last night’s reporting on Bolton’s trip. The Washington Post focused more on the effort to get out of Turkey’s way and the coordination necessary to give Ankara the lead on anti-ISIS fighting. The purpose of meeting with other Arab leaders was to undo the impression that we’re bailing on the Middle East, according to Karen DeYoung:

Turkey wants the United States to disarm Syrian Kurdish forces it has trained and supplied for the fight against the Islamic State, and to provide air and logistical support for Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition forces who plan to pick up the anti-militant battle after a U.S. withdrawal.

The list of Turkey’s “concerns and expectations” will be conveyed next week to White House national security adviser John Bolton when he visits Ankara to explain the still-unspecified U.S. plan for a withdrawal from Syria, according to Turkish officials.

Bolton’s trip comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also heading to the region to try to persuade Arab partners and allies that “the United States is not leaving the Middle East. Despite reports to the contrary and false narratives surrounding the Syria decision, we are not going anywhere,” a senior administration official said Friday in a briefing for reporters.

What “false narratives” were “surrounding the Syria decision”? Trump made his policy crystal clear. Not only did he declare a complete withdrawal from Syria — a decision that led to James Mattis’ resignation — Trump repeatedly defended a complete withdrawal on Twitter. Trump even made a point of taking a victory lap on complete withdrawal when meeting with troops in Iraq less than two weeks ago. Pompeo might want to rewrite history in order to give Trump some room for rethinking this move, but there was precious little room for a “false narrative” of complete and immediate withdrawal.

These remarks and Bolton’s trip suggest that Trump may well be rethinking the decision. He might be able to afford to let Turkey take on ISIS, albeit on a much longer timetable than Trump first posed, but leaving southern Syria in the hands of Iran is asking for a regional war. Israel has already conducted airstrikes in Syria to signal that it won’t let Bashar al-Assad off the hook for giving the mullahs in Tehran a back door to attack them. If the US leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it — and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening. That could very well cause an extremely large boom in the region, one which will eventually entangle the US and Russia and maybe even China.

That’s one good reason to stick around for a while and have an active hand in shaping the post-ISIS outcome in Syria. Besides, the US will have to have some presence in and about Syria if Bolton’s serious about this threat:

“There is absolutely no change in the U.S. position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“So the regime, the Assad regime, should be under no illusions on that question,” said Bolton, who is on a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey. …

If chemical weapons were to be used, “a lot of options would be on the table … if they don’t heed the lessons of those two strikes the next one will be more telling,” Bolton said.

Thus far the Trump administration has shown it’s not bluffing on reprisals for violations of chemical-weapons bans, but Assad might be forgiven for any confusion on that point. Bolton’s warning sounds a lot different than Trump’s tweet two weeks ago while defending a total withdrawal:

It seems that Bolton thinks we’ll keep that role as “policeman of the Middle East” after all. And perhaps we won’t be exiting Syria as fast or as completely as Trump first declared, either.

The post NBC: Trump admin retreating on Syria withdrawal? appeared first on Hot Air.

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