Why Trump is holding off on withdrawing troops from Syria

Sputnik  Mikhail Klimentyev      
                                               Alexei Sarabyev

But Trump has signaled to his advisers that ideally, he wants all troops out within six months, according to three USA officials-a finale that would come shortly before the United States midterm elections.

"In contrast, the security bureaucracies want to hold Syrian territory captured from the Islamic State, use it as a bargaining chip in any peace negotiations, and train Syrian groups to "stabilize" it", he said. However, US troops never were invited by the Syrian government and have been labeled as an occupying force. And his withdrawal could also precipitate the comeback of the Islamic State.

Trump has directed the Pentagon to plan a withdrawal from Syria over several months, backing away from an initial order for an immediate withdrawal, The New York Times reported this week. "ISIS remains a transregional threat, and the 71-nation coalition that's fighting ISIS is committed to ensuring that we combat violent extremism wherever it is". Kenneth McKenzie Jr., Director of Joint Staff, said according to the U.S. Department of Defence.

What should Trump be doing in Syria? Above all, an American withdrawal would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to be the biggest player and maybe even the only one in Syria, which would have repercussions for Syrians and the region as a whole.

In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the United States in return, according to senior administration officials.

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This photo provided February 2, 2018, by the Syrian rebel group Army of Islam, shows one of its fighters firing his weapon during clashes with government forces in Housh al-Dhawahira in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, Syria.

Indeed, others see Trump balancing campaign promises to get the U.S. out of Middle East wars and to compel allies to do more (and pay more) for their own security against a pledge to defeat ISIS. This has put the USA in a position of confrontation with Turkey. Turkey fears the formation of a Kurdish state on its border. According to the Institute for the Study of War and the American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project, "Al Qaeda.is more risky than ISIS", because although they share "the same aims as ISIS, including the intention of attacking and destroying the West", al-Qaeda is less focused on developing a physical caliphate and more on "insinuating itself inside Sunni insurgencies by harnessing popular grievances. while continuing to build capabilities that could be turned against the West". "So in that sense, nothing has actually changed". According to this interpretation, he no longer feels constrained by subordinates-such as outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster-who have annoyed Trump with advice counseling him to go in some other direction.

Trump is already planning to disassociate the U.S. from backing the Iranian nuclear deal and may agree with the Saudi desire of stemming Iran's influence stretching from Baghdad to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea by keeping USA troops in the Sunni-controlled regions of Syria and Iraq. Also on the list: US NATO ally Turkey, which has chafed at US support for Syrian Kurds.

This is a major concern for experts, at a time when the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian allies increasingly appear to be on the path to victory in Syria's brutal seven-year civil war.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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