Bolton: Yes, there are conditions on leaving Syria

The hawks within the Trump administration appear to be winning in the discussion on whether the U.S. will actually leave Syria. Ed wrote yesterday the administration was possibly changing its tune on the Syrian Civil War and National Security Adviser John Bolton confirmed the U.S. isn’t exiting immediately. Via UPI:

The planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will depend on a number of conditions including an agreement that Turkish forces won’t attack Syrian Kurdish forces, national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday.

Speaking to reporters while visiting Jerusalem, Bolton described the Syria withdrawal as a “cause and effect mission,” adding officials are setting a “policy decisions that we need to implement” before the process is completed.

“Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable,” said Bolton, who met with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bolton noted the U.S. isn’t even going to completely leave Syria. Via NBC:

Bolton also indicated that the U.S. troop withdrawal will not be a complete drawdown, as Trump had promised. Instead, he discussed a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, where most of the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops are based, while leaving some of them in the southern part of the country.

Stressing that despite conditions for withdrawal,the continued presence of U.S. forces in Syria is not unlimited.

“The primary point is we are going to withdraw from northeastern Syria,” Bolton said.

“So it’s going to be a different environment after we leave, there is no question about that,” he added. “But there is no desire to see Iran’s influence spread that’s for sure.”

It’s both unsurprising and disappointing to see the administration change its stance regarding Syria – and one would guess this also applies to the planned leaving of Afghanistan. Trump’s Syria policy has always been a muddled mess – he campaigned on leaving Syria but also said ISIS had to be destroyed and Iran contained. Let’s not forget the 2017 airstrike and the fact Trump also approved going into Libya in 2011/2012 (although the video on the Trump Organization’s YouTube page is now shockingly (note sarcasm) private).

Michigan Congressman Justin Amash made an extremely salient point regarding action in Syria.

There needs to be a vote on military action in Syria – and Yemen, while we’re at it – but I doubt it will actually happen. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped the House from voting on any sort of Yemen bill last month and current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the original troop withdrawal announcement “premature” before bizarrely comparing it to the sentencing for Michael Flynn.

It was always doubtful we were going to leave Syria because of the opposing forces in Trump’s administration and his alliance with South Carolina Lindsey Graham. Graham, for those wondering, is happy the U.S. is staying in Syria but vowed to CBS’ Face the Nation it was only temporary.

There are three things that we want to accomplish as part of a withdrawal. We want to make sure that when we leave the Kurds do not get slaughtered. And I don’t trust Turkey to take care of the Kurds. It’d be like Putin trying to police Assad. That didn’t work well. We need a plan to protect the Kurds from Turkey and others. We need to make sure ISIS doesn’t come back once they’re defeated and Iran is not the biggest winner. If you can accomplish those three objectives by reducing our forces, which I think we can, then count me in. But those three things have to be accomplished for us to successfully leave Syria. And the president’s slowing down and he’s re-evaluating his policies in light of those three objectives. Don’t let Iran get the oil fields, don’t let the Turks- Turks slaughter the Kurds, and don’t let ISIS come back. I think I share the goal of the president to withdraw our forces. Let’s just do it smartly.

I’m not holding my breath.

Yes, the U.S. needs to leave Syria (and Iraq and Afghanistan) but it becomes harder and harder to exit these nations as time wears on. Let’s also not forget Syria is a civil war and no threat to America. It just shows war never changes and America’s policy of being “world police” will probably never change.

So much for the Constitution or fiscal sanity.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022