It appears that the pro-interventionist crowd on the right and the left is about to receive some unwelcome news. However, to those who wish to see a cessation of what President Donald Trump calls “endless wars,” it will be a positive development. The United States is close to accomplishing its objective in Syria, which means that the president’s plan to pull troops from the region is likely the right choice.
Even though the Islamic State has lost most of its territory since Trump took office, the terrorist organization still has been active in Syria. But its activities are about to come to an end as U.S.-backed Syrian forces are poised to deal the final death blow to the group, giving the anti-interventionist side even more of a reason to pull out of the region.
Interventionists Claim ISIS Not Defeated
President Trump’s announcement of his plans to remove military forces from Syria was the proverbial stick that rattled the interventionist hornet’s nest. The swamp buzzed with an angry swarm of the usual Washington insects who promptly flew to the airwaves and social media to issue stinging criticisms of the White House’s decision.
In an appearance on CNN, Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, argued that the time was not right to leave Syria because ISIS has not yet been defeated. When Trump made his announcement, McGurk resigned in protest of the decision. “In early December, Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis and I met with all the military contributors of our coalition, including many countries that had been attacked from ISIS out of Syria, and the unanimous view is that ISIS is not defeated, this mission is not over.”
The Boston Globe joined the pile-on with a piece titled “No, ISIS isn’t defeated in Syria — and Trump lacks a strategy,” in which it interviewed Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), who claimed that “The president does not have a strategy for Syria.” The lawmaker also said, “The conflict in Syria is a terrible mess, but even worse would be to bring the troops back prematurely.”
Even Fox News seems to be carrying water for the interventionist herd. It recently published a poll indicating that ISIS has not yet been defeated. Et tu, Fox News?
But despite the protestations of those who oppose pulling out of Syria, it looks like ISIS might be on its last legs.
ISIS Almost Defeated
One America News Network recently reported that U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a major offensive against ISIS’ last stronghold in eastern Syria. The objective of the assault is to eliminate the last remnant of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in the region.
…Trump outlined a concrete strategy: annihilate ISIS, then get out.
Recently, President Trump indicated he expected that the coalition would announce that it had reclaimed the last of the territory held by the terrorist organization. Mustafa Bali, an SDF official, told Reuters that this assault was “the last battle.” In the ten days leading up to the attack, the SDF evacuated more than 20,000 civilians from the area to prevent collateral damage.
To be clear, after losing this territory, ISIS will not cease to exist, but the organization will be all but thoroughly crushed. But this begs the obvious question: If a vestige of ISIS remains, should the United States leave Syria?
Another Reason to Leave Syria
When the United States first invaded Syria under President Barack Obama, many were unclear about what the military hoped to accomplish in the area. Some advocated for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Others wished to prevent Russia and Iran from using the civil war to gain more power. But during the 2016 campaign, Trump outlined a concrete strategy: annihilate ISIS, then get out.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many on the left and the right are arguing that the Islamic State has not been defeated; if they can argue that the White House has not achieved its objective, then they can prolong our involvement in Syria. It’s worth pointing out that most of the critics have not indicated how it would look if the terrorist group is defeated.
The reality is that President Trump has never stated that destroying ISIS means hunting down and killing every single operative. The objective is to deny it the caliphate it desired by pushing ISIS out of the land it controlled in Iraq and Syria and by crippling its ability to cause widespread destruction.
After this final assault, it appears that ISIS will no longer have the ability to operate as it has previously. This does not mean that ISIS operatives will never launch another terrorist attack; the world has already seen its handiwork in Europe and the United States. But for all intents and purposes, the group is defeated.
Moreover, President Trump already has indicated that he plans to leave troops in Iraq that can react if ISIS attempts to re-form its caliphate. In the end, ISIS does not give the United States enough of a reason to keep troops in Syria. If all goes according to plan, this could mean that the president is finally putting an end to the endless wars.