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Hullabaloo


Sunday, January 06, 2019

 
Clean-up on aisle Syria

by digby








“We have won against ISIS. Our boys, our young women, our men — they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.

We won, and that’s the way we want it, and (pointing to the sky) that’s the way they want it."

Apparently, he's been speaking to the dead.

The Pentagon said the president had ordered the withdrawal be done in 30 days. That's why he said, "they're coming back now."

Well...

President Trump’s national security adviser sought to reassure allies Sunday that the United States would be methodical about withdrawing troops from Syria, promising that the pullout would not occur until the Islamic State was fully eradicated from the country and Turkey could guarantee the safety of Kurdish fighters.

John Bolton’s comments, reported by the Associated Press, are the clearest statement yet from the administration about how officials plan to execute Trump’s abrupt December announcement that he would pull troops from Syria, surprising allies and advisers, sparking an outcry from lawmakers, and prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said while speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, on a trip intended to allay Israeli leaders’ concerns about Trump’s announcement. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Trump touched off global confusion and panic when he announced via tweet in mid-December that he would order the withdrawal of the 2,000 troops stationed in Syria to help fight the Islamic State — a move that both allies and critics warned could upset the balance of power in the Middle East, emboldening Russia and Iran, and threaten what tenuous stability U.S.-aligned forces had been able to achieve in Syria.

Bolton’s comments come amid reports that Trump had agreed to extend his initial 30-day deadline for withdrawal to four months. When asked whether Bolton’s comments would affect that timeline, a senior administration official said that “there is no specific timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, and reports to the contrary are false.”

Nonetheless, the plans and assurances the national security adviser offered in Israel were confirmation that withdrawal plans are slowing until conditions on the ground match the president’s stated assessment of the situation in Syria. As part of his announcement, Trump said the United States had “defeated ISIS” there — a claim that his advisers and political allies have disputed. ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.

Trump’s advisers and GOP allies have warned that pulling out U.S. troops would also leave Kurdish fighters — who had been vital U.S. allies — susceptible to attacks by Turkey, where leaders see the group as a threat to their nation’s sovereignty.

In a Sunday news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolton said that “the defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured” and that the United States would “take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.” He also said that the withdrawal would take place but “in a way to make sure ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.”

But while Bolton’s comments may have come as a relief to some, a top House Democrat stressed that the priorities the national security adviser outlined were “obvious” — and simply highlighted how dangerous Trump’s initial withdrawal announcement was.

I don't pretend to know the solution to this thorny problem. Thousands of lives are on the line and it seems to me that nobody has the answer for how to mitigate the carnage. But whatever Trump is doing is chaotic lunacy that is clearly dangerous and risky and will likely make things worse. We know he impulsively made the decision on the phone with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan which was so abrupt that even Erdogan himself unsuccessfully tried to walk him back.

He's nuts and he's making nuttier and nuttier decisions. Bolton isn't much better but I think he's somewhat predictable.
Pompeo's an Iran hawk but he has at least some credibility in the region. He's headed out in a couple of days to follow up with more damage control. But damn, depending on those guys to clean up this mess is extremely worrying. They are charter members of the Middle East wrecking crew themselves.

As I said, I don't know what the answer is. Maybe an abrupt, immediate withdrawal would work out. But making the decision without consulting with allies or even attempting to understand the ramifications is terrifying. It's a monumental mistake to enable his rash and careless incompetence simply because in one instance it aligns with your own goals. That applies to his political allies and adversaries alike.


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