On Wed, Dec 19th, President Trump decided to pull all American troops out of Syria. Reports say there are approximately 2,000 troops in Syria. I’m not sure what their specific tasks were, but here are my thoughts.
Sub-nationally, many experts believe ISIS is far from defeated. However, the return on investment for military operations is typically lower than engaging adversaries through other means (financial, cyber, etc). This may mean just a shift in resources. As long as it is, there is no reason to panic. America can do a lot of damage to ISIS via counter threat financing, information operations, and cyber attacks. I wouldn’t worry about ISIS. They were an insurgency that flamed out too early and tried to sit at the national table with the big boys when they weren’t ready.
Geopolitically, Syria has been a boondoogle from Day 1 and our options were limited. Our choice for replacing Assad didn’t have a chance. Our stake in the civil war was small. That said, handing Syria to Russia, Iran, and Turkey does not look good to our allies in the region (Israel, Jordan, pro-US parts of Iraq – particularly the Kurds). Also, less anti-ISIS operations may mean less use of al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which increases Saudi Arabia’s leverage in the region.
Any removal of US power in the Middle East leaves a space that will be filled by someone else. In the Syrian region, expect the gap to be filled by Turkey or Iran. ISIS will continue to be a pest, but they are insignificant to our nation-level competition.
Overall, this is not a bad idea, especially if we continue to engage on other conflict platforms. It’s just not a necessarily good idea when looked at through a geopolitical spectrum.