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US-Syria: Did Failure to Dethrone Assad Mark Trump’s Biggest Defeat?

Death of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is perhaps the biggest claim that President of the United States Donald Trump, has made in his entire presidency term. A claim that itself speaks for ‘Making America Great Again’, great enough to give Trump power in the 2020 US presidential elections, because he has sorted the US-Syria policy once and for all on his own terms.

Known since his throning in 2016, Donald Trump has focused on bringing back the US troops from various war-torn zones in the Middle East. The scenario mostly included Syria, a region that hosts a majority of ISIS militias.

Now, as the claims of defeating ISIS with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death emerged, Trump vivaciously claimed how the extremist group’s leader died like a “coward”. His tone was more than matched by confidence about his decision to withdraw the US troops from the region.

Not so long ago, on April 3, 2018, Brett McGurk the then-special presidential envoy for the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, told an audience in Washington that the United States planned to stay in Syria. “We are in Syria to fight ISIS,” McGurk said during an event at the United States Institute for Peace, “and our mission isn’t over.”

Only to find out later that day that his boss struck a completely different notion at a White House press conference. “I want to get out [of Syria]. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” President Donald Trump said.

Denting National Security

The internal split on the US-Syria policy has constantly shaken various prospects at the White House. At the helm of which is failure in making Trump understand how his policies can dent the national security. This is because a majority of senior officials have sought to stay in Syria against the Islamic State and Iranian influence – with removal spelling disaster for Syrian Kurds.

“Isn’t one of the most American mottos “Leave no man behind”? And now we are leaving hundreds of thousands of men and women behind in Syria? Trump demands loyalty from those around him but gives ZERO back. Kurdish fighters have been there for us!!! And now this cowardice?!?,” said Martina Navratilova, ex-tennis player who also comments on US-Syria policy.

The efforts taken in the direction of slowing down the Syrian withdrawal didn’t pay much dividends, too. On October 6, Trump withdrew troops from the Turkey-Syria border after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showcased his will to launch a cross-border invasion. The decision, which led to Erdogan rolling into northeastern Syria in an ongoing operation that has already seen killing of hundreds of fighters and civilians, displaced around 300,000 residents and made it easy for ISIS to captivate its presence. The framework that has made Islamic state more powerful, pushed Syrian Kurds towards an existential threat to their people, amidst a weakening autonomy in the northeast Syria.

“Watching what is going on in Northern Syria I can only say one thing about trump at this moment- #warcriminaltrump,” Navratilova said.

On the other hand, alongside Turkey, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has also made strategic gains in the nation, with both Turkey-Russia effectively taking charge of the formerly-held area, which is 75 miles wide and 20 miles deep. This has left no option for Syrian Kurds, but to cut ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian backers to protect themselves from Turkish attack.

However, with the US’ departure, Bashar al-Assad has become the undisputed king of the region that is already controlled by his Iranian and Russian backer. The US is maintaining some troops to safeguard oil rich fields in Deir Ezzor province, but that’s it, while the Turks are pushing for greater power at the expense of completely eradicating the Syrian Kurds.

With the situation at hand, it is difficult to judge how long can the US troops survive when Russia, Turkey, Iran, Assad along with the Kurds loom in the region with different conflict of interests. As greatness intensifies for Trump with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death the question is – if Donald Trump wins the 2020 US presidential election, will US-Syria ever be the same again?

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