Consequences of US withdrawal from Syria?

Leading politicians at home and abroad have lambasted Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. There are currently around 2,000 US soldiers stationed in the war-torn country. Although it now seems likely that the withdrawal will be postponed, commentators observe a strengthening of radical Islamist forces and expect another shift in the balance of power in Syria.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Putin and Assad have free rein now

The jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has by its own account agreed to a ceasefire in the province of Idlib and in so doing taken complete control of the region. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explains why the news comes as a blow for Ankara:

“Russia had agreed last autumn to call off an offensive against Idlib on the condition that Turkey enforces the disarmament of terrorist groups there. That did not happen. Worse still, the most powerful of these terrorist groups now controls Idlib, increasing the risk of war. Since Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations - focusing instead on a military offensive against the Syrian Kurds - Russia and the regime in Damascus are no longer bound by their commitment not to attack Idlib.”

Ukrayinska Pravda (UA) /

Moscow has no interest in strengthening Ankara

A withdrawal of US troops from Syria would have immediate repercussions on relations between Turkey and Russia, diplomat Sergiy Korsunsky writes in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“Until just a short while ago Turkey and Russia closely coordinated their activities in Syria. Now Russian units are being relocated to protect the Kurds from the Turkish army, because the Kurds have long been partners with Russia, which has used them for years to create problems in the region. ... Russia has no interest whatsoever in strengthening Turkey's position, particularly in the context of [Ankara's announced] elimination of the 'Kurdish threat'. And that calls the alliance between Ankara and Moscow into question.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Damascus must control northern Syria

Ankara must engage in dialogue with the Assad regime instead of dreaming about extending its power in Syria, Cumhuriyet believes:

“Turkey should finally face the fact that the path to a solution in Syria leads through Damascus, and it should act accordingly. ... The US has announced that it won't withdraw its support for the [Syrian Kurdish] PYD-YPG. Russia, which together with Turkey is active in the Astana Process, won't be happy about Ankara positioning itself for battle in northern Syria, or about the Free Syrian Army, which is composed to a large extent of radical Islamist groups, doing as it pleases there. ... Creating a peace in Syria that puts an end to the civil war on the one hand and preserves its territorial integrity on the other will only be possible if Damascus controls the north.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

No strategy in sight

Trump's decision will have serious consequences, Dagens Nyheter is convinced:

“Trump's most important foreign policy motto so far has been that Obama did everything wrong. In the case of Syria it's striking how Trump's actions resemble those of his predecessor. Obama dithered regarding Syria until the IS appeared on the scene and made action imperative. ... Where Obama dithered, Trump now deserts. There's no strategy in sight. ... 2,000 soldiers - that doesn't sound like much, but the indirect consequences of withdrawal will no doubt be considerable. The IS can venture a new start. Assad is sitting firmly in the saddle. Russia and Iran are strengthening their positions. Turkey now gets a chance to take action against the Kurds. Israel is no doubt looking for its own strategy to weaken Iran's position in Syria. In this regard Trump's America looks anything but great.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

US president is bolstering the IS

With the withdrawal from Syria Trump is strengthening the US's opponents, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“Above all a new Turkish military offensive is likely to cripple the fight against the IS, which many Kurds have taken part in up to now. Contrary to what Trump claims, the Islamic State is far from defeated. ... If the Kurdish fighters withdraw to the north once more, it will only be a matter of time before the IS regains its strength or another terrorist network is formed in the desert. It's almost impossible to say what could have prompted Trump to take a decision which so obviously jeopardises the fight against terror, leaves the Kurdish allies exposed to great danger and on top of all that gives the Iranians a free hand in Syria.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Paradoxical and incomprehensible

Trump's decision seems to be a paradox for Hospodářské noviny:

“The decision confirms that the West can't win this peace. What's more, it has fought against jihadist terror only for brief spells. While the jihadists plan strategically with a time horizon spanning generations, a US president plans at best for the duration of his term in office. Think of Obama's withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Trump's current decision makes even less sense. The move is also paradoxical in view of the US's current record defence budget. Its increase was justified among other things with the continued fight against the IS.”

Le Monde (FR) /

More and more chaos

The conclusions to be drawn from the decision are worrying indeed, Le Monde writes:

“The president's unpredictability is spreading through his administration like leprosy. The complete lack of decision-making chains devalues the words of Washington's representatives, whether they're talking with friends or foes. There is the risk that at any moment their statements could be refuted by their commander in chief. The very slogan 'America first' loses its meaning when the president acts against America's fundamental interests. This 'America first' is a chimera in view of what are the biggest dangers to the equilibrium of the world and the security of the United States. And the country's helmsman unfortunately seems to be able to do nothing but add chaos to chaos.”

Sabah (TR) /

Trump has always been against troops in Syria

In view of Trump's political priorities and his knowledge of the region it's only logical for him to pull US troops out of Syria, the pro-government daily Sabah comments:

“There's no reason to be overly surprised at this news. If US foreign policy had been within Trump's area of competences earlier there'd be no US troops in Syria at all. Take a look at the archives and you'll see that even before his election Trump spoke out against the presence of US troops there. ... What's more, between then and now Trump has learned that the opposition forces with whom he collaborates in Syria are terrorists belonging to the [Kurdish parties] PKK and PYD. President Erdoğan has informed and warned Trump about this situation on several occasions.”