SHARE
Defense.gov

On Dec. 19, Pres­ident Trump abruptly declared that he was with­drawing and bringing home the American troops in Syria. He announced in a video, “We have won against ISIS. Our boys, our young women, our men — they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now.”

Trump orig­i­nally indi­cated that the with­drawal would be imme­diate and troops would be home in a matter of weeks. But then he said it would take a sig­nif­icant amount of time to move all the troops and cargo that have been in the region since 2015.

Con­gressmen on both sides of the aisle have hemmed and hawed this plan for months. And a bombing in Manbij, Syria on Jan. 16, which left four Amer­icans dead, and another in the Hasakey province on Jan. 21, which tar­geted and wounded American sol­diers, has expo­nen­tially increased Congress’s doubts. And our elected offi­cials are right to worry: Trump was dan­ger­ously wrong. ISIS is not defeated just because he says so.

Manbij is a town in northern Syria con­trolled by U.S.-backed Syrian Demo­c­ratic Forces (SDF). ISIS claimed the attack, clearly showing that the U.S. has not “won against ISIS,” as Trump glee­fully announced in December.

Then on Jan. 21, the Islamic State struck again with a suicide bomber who drove a car rigged with explo­sives into a convoy of U.S. sol­diers and local fighters in the Hasakeh province. There were no U.S. casu­alties, but according to the Syrian Obser­vatory for Human Rights, there were five SDF fighters killed.

It seems that ISIS is trying to throw a few more punches before their U.S. enemies leave, perhaps to show Trump that they are not defeated, and no matter how much ter­ritory they lose — which is a sig­nif­icant amount due to the U.S. alliance with the Kurds — they have no plans of going away, unlike the American troops. ISIS has once again reverted to guerilla warfare, waking up its sleeper cells.

And though the two bombings tar­geting Amer­icans sent this message to many in Con­gress, on both sides of the aisle, Trump didn’t catch it.

The pres­ident still wants to pull U.S. troops out. And even worse, he wants to hand over the clean-up to Turkey. Trump said he believes Turkey will keep fighting ISIS and finish its business in Syria now that the U.S. has done its part. But this is a ter­ri­fying prospect for the Kurdish fighters whom the U.S. has been pro­tecting and working with for years.

Turkey hates the Kurds. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pres­ident of Turkey, sees the Kurds in Syria as ter­rorists con­nected to Kurdish sep­a­ratists in Turkey. In December, Erdoğan unashamedly announced that Turkey would carry out attacks against the U.S.-backed Kurds in Syria. And then he blamed the U.S. for defending its Kurdish allies.

“It is clear that the purpose of U.S. obser­vation points in Syria is not to protect our country from ter­rorists, but protect ter­rorists from Turkey,” Erdoğan said.

And this is the man whom Trump wants to entrust the fight against ISIS.

Trump’s unwill­ingness to listen to Con­gress and his closest advisers is dis­cour­aging. Not only did he falsely claim that ISIS is defeated, but his Syrian with­drawal threatens an important alliance that has worked in the U.S.’s favor for years.

With ISIS still lurking and Turkey’s aggression on display, this is not the right time to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. But unfor­tu­nately, Trump’s hastiness may be irre­versible, leaving Syria open to Turkey, while the threat of ISIS con­tinues.

Abby Liebing is a junior studying history