Let me begin with an apology for yesterday’s blog. That blog stimulated quite a reader response. After reading those emails and re-reading the blog, I recognize that I was guilty of three important errors. The first was a crucial omission. Second, I failed to indicate when I was still conveying the interpretation of events as told by Marmur and Brenner and not my own; some readers thought that too many of these interpretations were mine. Third, when I did insert my own observations, this compounded the problem, for instead of enabling the reader to distinguish the voice of the writer from that of others, I added to the confusion.
Yesterday, I wanted to ignore the calumny against the Obama regime. Trump claimed that when he became President, ISIS was going wild. My evaluation that the claim was invalid, along with the failure to explain why, led to some of the misinterpretations. As the timeline will make clear, ISIS was not going wild in January of 2016. ISIS control of territory in both Iraq and Syria peaked in January of 2015 not 2016. In 2016, we observed the major rollback of ISIS which was indeed largely completed during the first year of President Trump’s presidency. But that rollback was well underway in 2016. All the statement proved was that Trump remains a pompous braggart and liar incapable of giving credit where credit is due.
All of this is readily apparent in the timeline that follows, as are three other points:
- S. leadership and involvement were absolutely critical to the victory over ISIS; when America withdrew from Iraq in 2011, there was a resurgence of the war by radical Islamicists.
- The Kurdish American allies were also critical to the victory.
- Terrorism outside the immediate field of battle reached its peak with the success of ISIS and declined as ISIS was defeated.
Without parsing what views expressed in the last blog were mine and what views could be attributed to the two other blogs I cited, I believe my views will become clear when I respond to the criticisms.
- I and Ayelet Shaked were both accused of being surprised and apprehensive about the American military withdrawal from Syria.
I am apprehensive but not surprised. Trump expressed his determination to withdraw in March and then extended the deployment for only six months. Though I should not have been surprised by the way he did it given Trump’s character and pattern of decision-making, I was, but should not have been, taken aback by the style.
- I am making a “mountain out of a molehill” with respect to the withdrawal of American Special Forces as ground troops can be replaced in hours, especially given the American military capability if the region.
Boots on the ground to train local forces are critical until those forces are at sufficient strength and experience to take over. As the timeline will indicate, air power can help stop an advance, but more is needed to reverse it and American training and supplies of ground troops are crucial for this purpose. Ground troops cannot be replaced in hours. The agreement of the host country may be required, or, alternatively, the tacit agreement of other powers that may even be antithetical in other circumstances, such as Russia. Logistics, bases and airfields have to be available.
- Daesh has almost lost all its territory, though the diehards in Deir es-Zor have been putting up an extremely determined resistance for months, but they are confronting the U.S.-backed SDF, that is, Kurdish YPG. However, both these points are irrelevant since the geographical position of this last stronghold is inconsequential to both the Kurds and the Americans.
True. But American backing for the Kurds is both politically crucial and of vital importance when Assad and Erdoğan both send their forces against the YPG.
- A resurgent Daesh is a threat to Assad/Russia/Iran/ Iraq and pretty much everyone else. Let them handle them. Why should America be handling this?
Perhaps to protect the Kurds.
- Turkey wants to take over a big chunk of Syria? They may find it something they didn’t bargain for.
They may indeed. At the same time, this is no solace for the Kurds caught between Turkey and the Assad regime. Or for the prospect of another regional war.
- The Kurds are overextended, tired and realize that they need to consolidate before the Turkish onslaught.
All the more reason to keep the Special Forces there given the above.
- Trump’s surveillance of Iran is much more effective than the Iran agreement.
This was a topic I dealt with in other blogs, not the one I wrote yesterday morning.
- While the U.S. had only around 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, they controlled, or at least supervised, the main crossing points between Syria and Iraq. With their departure, Liberman explained that, “we’re now talking about contiguous Shiite land between Iran, Iraq and Syria.” This will almost certainly mean a strengthening of the Iranian military position in Syria and more advanced weapons reaching Hezbollah.
This is Israel’s real fear.
- Trump is a horse trader; he has given the green light to Erdoğan to take Manbij and the area west of the Euphrates river in return for the Turks canceling the S-400 contract with Russia and purchasing American Patriots instead.
I agree. Trump has turned a matter of critical geo-security interest into a transactional exercise.
- America’s control of 60% of the world’s military might, military power that has been dramatically enhanced by the increase in the military budget; the U.S. is now even more formidable.
Only if the Commander-in-Chief shows a willingness to use it when absolutely necessary.. Further, the effectiveness of military power depends as much on trust and involvement of allies, politically as well as militarily, as on troops and military hardware. If, instead, Trump sends 5,000 troops to unroll barbed wire on the Mexican border and wants to spend that extra procurement on military parades, then the possession of enormous military might is irrelevant.
- America’s air force military might is being held on a tight leash in Syria because of its lethal power. At the same time, compared to 2,000 troops on the ground, there is no contest with America’s air power.
Quite the reverse. As the timeline will indicate, air power stopped the insurgency, but did not reverse it. That required both troops on the ground and the backup of air power. At the same time, in addition to the international humanitarian norms restricting the use of air power, that air power has to be employed very carefully lest too many civilians are killed and the population turns against America.
- Drones still have more power than ground troops and American intelligence surveillance remain predominant in the region.
True, but so what if the President relies on instinct, impulse and TV impressions and not intelligence analysis to make decisions?
- These troops the U.S. are withdrawing can have better use elsewhere, which goes the same for the troops in Afghanistan.
That is the big debate. Though there are reasons for arguing for American withdrawal from Syria, I do not believe this is one of them. Further, I believe the timeline I will publish next will raise serious questions about such a claim.
- What can happen? Daesh will reconquer a big chunk of the Levant? Draw more pan-Islamicists to their Caliphate/hell on earth?
Again, look at the timeline I will publish. Though I think an ISIS resurgence is unlikely, it remains a real possibility.
- Incompetent European leaders want America to fight Daesh for them.
Then why are the UK and France remaining? Recall that the coalition was created as a U.S. initiative.
- Trump told Netanyahu that his support for Israel is unwavering and the USA remains on high alert in supporting Israel from any aggression.
Yes, but do Trump’s promises mean anything when he changes his mind overnight, influenced by leaders such as Putin and Erdoğan?
- I underestimate the strength and superior ability of Israel to defend itself. Soldier to soldier, Israel has no peers. They are the finest best trained ground military force on the planet.
Likely true, but irrelevant. The issue is not whether the Israelis can defend themselves, but whether and to what degree Israel can rely on American logistical backup in a military crisis. Israel has never played a crucial role in obtaining a military victory for the Americans. The Kurds have. Yet Trump is deserting them. How can any nation rely on such an unreliable partnership?
- Recently-resigned Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the move had the potential to spark a major regional war. “The withdrawal of the US from Syria significantly raises the chance of an all-out conflict in the north — both in Lebanon and Syria.”
That is the real fear given that the presence of U.S. troops seems to play a role as a deterrent to this possible result.
- As for Israel, I would quote Alfred E Newman, “What me worry?”
Quoting Alfred E. Newman will not stop Jews from worrying.
- There is no imminent threat to Israel even though the corrupt leadership in Jerusalem “would love to have Israel surrounded by American troops.”
There is no imminent existential threat to Israel. But there are real threats and American backing is critical to managing those threats.
- My essay is part of a hysterical liberal crusade to rid the world of a dangerous tyrant in the White House.
My essay largely confined itself to introducing the issue of withdrawing American Special Forces from Syria, an option available to whomever occupies the White House.
- I mis-judge the American people and those persons in senior positions in that Government to uphold their Constitution.
This is largely irrelevant to yesterday’s blog, but I am indeed wary about the Republicans in Congress; do they have the backbone to defend the Constitution when they will also have to face the wrath of the Trump base?
- I chortle with delight at the mid-term election results and watch the evidence pile up that indicates an early Trump impeachment. That will never happen. Trump will resign and be pardoned of alleged crimes by President Pence, soon.
I am not a futurologist and do not know what will happen. Nor have I taken a stand on what should happen. I am still too ignorant about both the legal and political dimensions of impeachment, quite aside from the situation that all the facts of the case still have to be put before the American public.
- I allegedly do not understand the strength of the American military Command for Mad Dog Mattis was a hawk fired by Obama and his replacement will not bow to any Trump irrational non-Pentagon group.
Possibly, but as I read the tea leaves and watch Trump’s behaviour, I see him as growing more desperate, less ready to satisfy his minders and even more prone to irrational choices propelled by a willingness to bring the stadium down if he is trapped.
- I personally believe that Congress and the Senate will never allow illegal orders of any Commander in Chief. That is one place where Republicans and Democrats agree.
I hope you are correct.
Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria: Timeline
Part III – Timeline and Eval