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US to withdraw troops from Syria

2018-12-21

Source: Global Times    Published: 2018-12-20


US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the US will withdraw its troops from Syria in an unexpected move that analysts said exposes the divide among US policymakers and does not necessarily indicate the US will shift its focus to other regions.


Trump issued several tweets from Wednesday to Thursday about his decision. "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," he said on Thursday from his Twitter account.


While answering question about Trump's decision, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry said on a routine press conference on Thursday that "China always respect the sovereignty of Syria, and support political solution of the crisis. At the current stage we hope the relevant parties to pay joint efforts to create conditions for political solution led by Syrian people and owened by Syrian people. This will serve the common interest of the international community."


Hua Liming, a Middle East studies expert and a former Chinese ambassador to Iran, told the Global Times on Thursday that, "This decision could probably put an end to the Syrian Civil War, because this means the US has formally abandoned its goal to overthrow the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad." So that means Russia's strategic mission to protect the Syrian government would be accomplished as well.


"ISIS still exists in that region, but to totally destroy them is a long-term mission, adding that the opposition forces used to support the West are hopeless, and the US found it is meaningless to maintain its presence there," said Diao Daming, an American studies expert at the Renmin University of China.


Trump's decision was made on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the issue, following a small meeting attended only by senior White House aides and the secretaries of defense and state, most of whom, if not all, sharply disagreed, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.


Trump just wants to cut the unnecessary cost and fulfill his campaign promise, but the Pentagon believes that the US should maintain a military presence there, and this divergence is not a secret, but this time Trump just firmly and directly announced his decision, thus making the divergence among US political elites public, Hua Liming noted.


The White House on Wednesday struggled both to rationalize and to defend Trump's surprise announcement, CNBC reported on Thursday. Congress also was surprised. "Among those who learned about Trump's decision from reading news reports were top congressional leaders in both parties and senior military brass. In a more traditional administration, these two groups would have almost certainly been consulted ahead of such a momentous military announcement," CNBC reported.


"I've never seen a decision like this since I've been here, in 12 years, where nothing is communicated in advance, and all of a sudden this type of massive decision takes place," said Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in an interview with CNBC.


The decision doesn't necessarily mean the US will decrease its presence in the Middle East, Diao told the Global Times. "Because apart from Syria and ISIS, Iran is still a big concern for the US. And those some 2,000 remaining US troops in Syria won't make a big difference if they are redeployed elsewhere. So, we don't need to treat this as a signal, as with the Obama administration in the past, that a decreasing presence in the Middle East signifies a rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region."


Hua Liming is a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: US   Syria   withdrawal   Hua Liming  

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