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U.S Quietly Handing Syria Over to Russia

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01-December-2017

Contrary to public discourse, the reality on the ground suggests that the U.S is withdrawing from Syria and leaving it to Russia.

Contrary to public discourse, the reality on the ground suggests that the U.S is withdrawing from Syria and leaving it to Russia

By Alamdar Khadr

There has been a lot of noise in the past few months that the U.S under the Trump administration has been steadily building up its forces in Syria. The argument is that the U.S plans to stay in Syria for good even after the defeat of the Islamic State.

Bloomberg, for example, states the following:

U.S. troops, in Syria to fight Islamic State, won’t be packing their bags now the jihadist group is essentially beaten. They’re staying on. But it’s not clear what role they’ll play in the wider Syrian conflict that’s also entering its endgame. Washington is in the unaccustomed position of watching from the sidelines — while its rivals, and some of its allies, team up on a peace plan.

The real movements on the ground, however, seems to indicate otherwise. The Syrian army has gained swaths of territory under U.S eyes. With Russian pressure, the U.S has mostly held back from attacking Syrian troops even though minor mishaps took place in 2017. If the U.S was serious about stopping the SAA, conflicts and aerial attacks would be much more frequent.

More telling is the recent news that came today: the US is withdrawing 400 troops from Syria. If anything, the U.S seems less inclined to keeping troops on the ground or having them involved in any form of direct or proxy war against Russia, the Syrian government and its allies. The battalion in question is a very interesting one. Here is what the BBC has to say about the importance of the troops that are currently being withdrawn:

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the Marine artillery battery was the most significant combat element deployed by the Americans on the ground, bolstering the impact of US and coalition air power.

With ISI [ISIS] as a territorial entity largely defeated there is no longer any need for the battery, our correspondent adds. Thus its departure marks the end of a significant phase in the battle against IS.

So the U.S is withdrawing some of its most effective units from the group, thus implying that it has no serious plans to confront the Syrian government, its army or allies.

What leaves us is the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). As they continue to fight the pockets of ISIS resistance in the country, it is highly likely that the U.S will end military aid to them in the long term or even the short term. This is not because the Trump administration loathes them or mistrusts them, but because continued permanent support of them will undermine the cooperation and support of their second most important ally in the region: Turkey. So far there are signs that the Trump administration is bowing to Turkish pressure to stop arming the SDF who most of its members are from the YGP militia which Turkey has categorized as a terrorist group.

In a recent public announcement, the Turkish government declared that the U.S will stop arming the YPG militia in Syria after a promise made to Turkish President Erdogan by US president Donald Trump. The YPG is an essential part of the SDF, cutting off military aid to them will not be in the favor of the SDF. Even if the U.S continues to fund the Kurds under the banner of the SDF, it is highly unlikely that the U.S would continue to do so on the long term if it succumbs under pressure from Turkey. History has shown that the U.S has never been willing to sacrifice its relationship with Turkey and it has repeatedly broken its promises to the Kurds and betrayed them when it had to choose between the two.

Alamdar Khadr is a blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in the United States.

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