President Donald Trump’s sudden announcement Wednesday that he is removing U.S. forces from Syria shocked many. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, because the move is consistent with key aspects of Trump’s military and foreign policy.
Trump promised to bring the 2,000 U.S. Special Forces home from Syria in April. When his announcement sparked opposition from the Pentagon and from key allies, Trump said that he would give the Pentagon six months to complete its mission to defeat so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) forces in Syria.
Seven months later, he announced the troops will be coming home.
Trump’s decision will have negative consequences. But it will also have positive consequences. Only time will tell if the positive implications of the move will outweigh the negative ones. But it is important to set out both to consider the wisdom of his decision.
On the negative side, the most immediate casualties of Trump’s decision are the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia. The YPG has been America’s partner and its ground force in the U.S.-led campaign against IS in Syria. YPG forces are the only forces on the ground in Syria that are loyal to the U.S.
At the same time, the U.S. partnership with the YPG has raised the prospect of a war between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkish dictator Recip Erdogan. Erdogan threatened last week to launch an offensive against the YPG forces. He spoke to Trump on Monday. Trump reportedly decided to announce the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria on Tuesday.