The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and former U.S. Army Special Operations Officer and global psychological warfare counter-terrorism analyst Scott Bennett take a quick look at US President Donald Trump decision to disengage from Syria and bring American troops home. Does this mark a major turning point and pivot away from years of a failed and disastrous US foreign policy dogma in the Middle East that has left the region in ruins.
How will the Deep State and neocon warmongers react and retaliate to US President Trump’s decision to deliver what he promised during his presidential campaign…an end to the military industrial complex wars.
Meanwhile, Trump continues a bold US military disengagement in never ending, bullshit wars started by Bush and Obama. Zerohedge that US President Trump has ordered a major Afghan drawdown with 7,000 troops set to return to the US in the coming weeks…
CNN warns “officials brace for Trump announcement on Afghanistan” after Trump’s Wednesday bombshell Syria troop pullout announcement. He’s now initiated “a major drawdown” of forces in Afghanistan too, and while inside the beltway neocon heads might continue to explode, the broader public for which the seventeen year long Afghan war is deeply unpopularwill no doubt cheer the move. And already NBC reports Thursday evening based on defense sources the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans presenting “multiple options” including a “complete withdrawal”. Following the “options” order it now appears Trump has pulled the trigger and “ordered the start of a reduction of American forces in Afghanistan” according to a breaking WSJ report:
More than 7,000 American troops will begin to return home from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, a U.S. official said. The move will come as the first stage of a phased drawdown and the start of a conclusion to the 17-year war that officials say could take at least many months. There now are more than 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Further the WSJ reports it marks “the start of a total pullout that could take at least many months.”
The major reduction of U.S. troops in the country will begin as soon as within several weeks, according to sources cited in The Wall Street Journal. Currently there are about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan in continuation of a NATO advise, train and assist mission as part of the longest running war in United States history.
Trump reportedly stoked “anger and confusion” among some lawmakers and Pentagon officials over his Syria pullout decision; however, he appears to be sticking to his prior “bring the troops home” promises made on the campaign trail in 2016. In a series of Tweets, the president defended the 180 degree shift in Syria policy, which as of only less than a week ago was was expressed by US special envoy for Syria, Ambassador James Jeffrey, as “countering Iran”.
In a Thursday Tweet that could have just as well been about Afghanistan, Trump stated: “So hard to believe that Lindsey Graham would be against saving soldier lives & billions of $$$.” And added, “Time to focus on our Country & bring our youth back home where they belong!”
Meanwhile it shouldn’t be forgotten that even the generals responsible for executing the Afghan war have been critics of late, including the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
Speaking to NBC News in early November, Gen. Austin Scott Miller made deeply pessimistic public statements after taking charge of American operations, and shocked with his frank assessment that that the Afghan war cannot be won militarily and peace will only be achieved through direct engagement and negotiations with the Taliban— the very terror group which US forces sought to defeat when it first invaded in 2001. “This is not going to be won militarily,” Gen. Miller said. “This is going to a political solution.”
My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.
So it appears Trump is actually heeding his general’s assessment in ordering the significant drawdown.
The United States has spent well over $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency while also paying for relief and reconstruction in an “endless war” that has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which was the reconstruction effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.
It would be nice to think the president has final say on foreign policy, given the U.S. Constitution. But the misleading troop withdrawal announcement, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggests the exact opposite, says Patrick Lawrence.
The announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all remaining troops from Syriawithin the next month looked at first like a rare victory for Donald Trump in his admittedly erratic opposition to senseless wars of adventure. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” the president tweeted with an unmistakable air of triumph.
Don’t get your hopes up. Just about everything in these initial reports is either wrong or misleading. One, the U.S. did not defeat the Islamic State: The Syrian Arab Army, aided by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah militias did. Two, hardly was ISIS the only reason the U.S. has maintained a presence in Syria. The intent for years was to support a coup against the Assad government in Damascus—in part by training and equipping jihadists often allied with ISIS. For at least the past six months, the U.S. military’s intent in Syria has been to counter Iranian influence.
Last and hardly least, the U.S. is not closing down its military presence in Syria. It is digging in for an indefinite period, making Raqqa the equivalent of the Green Zone in Baghdad. By the official count, there are 503 U.S. troops stationed in the Islamic State’s former capital. Unofficially, according to The Washington Post and other press reports, the figure is closer to 4,000—twice the number that is supposed to represent a “full withdrawal” from Syrian soil.
It would be nice to think Washington has at last accepted defeat in Syria, given it is preposterous to pretend otherwise any longer. Damascus is now well into its consolidation phase. Russia, Iran, and Turkey are currently working with Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, to form a committee in January to begin drafting a new Syrian constitution.
U.S. forces conducted a precision airstrike near Sarmada in northwest Syria Nov. 18 that Pentagon says killed a senior al-Qaida leader. (Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
It would also be nice to think the president and commander-in-chief has the final say in his administration’s policies overseas, given the constitution by which we are supposed to be governed. But the misleading announcement on the withdrawal of troops, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggest something close to exactly the opposite.
As Trump finishes his second year in office, the pattern is plain: This president can have all the foreign policy ideas he wants, but the Pentagon, State, the intelligence apparatus, and the rest of what some call “the deep state” will either reverse, delay, or never implement any policy not to its liking.
Blocking Few Good Ideas
Syria is a case in point, but one among many. Trump announced in March that he would withdraw American troops as soon as the fight against ISIS was finished. By September the Pentagon was saying no, U.S. forces had to stay until Damascus and its political opponents achieved a full settlement. From the new HQ in Raqqa, The Washington Post tells us, U.S. forces will extend “overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria.”
This is how 2018 has gone for Trump. This president has very few good ideas, but we can count on his foreign policy minders to block those he does have if they fail to conform to the orthodox playbook—the foreign policy “blob,” as Barack Obama famously called it.
Reversal on Military Budget
Earlier this month Trump complained about the Pentagon’s out-of-control budget and pledged to cut it, if marginally, from its current $716 billion to $700 billion in the 2020 fiscal year. “I am certain that, at some time in the future,” he said in one of his inevitable tweets, “President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!”
Raqqa Internal Security Force Training Class receive their initial issue of equipment after training in Ayn Issa, Syria, July 31 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)
Days later the president had a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. The White House announced immediately afterward that the three had agreed on a 2020 defense budget of $750 billion: from a 2 percent cut to an increase of nearly 5 percent in the course of one meeting.
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Trump’s idea of improving relations with Russia has faced a wall of opposition from the first, needless to say. His summit with President Putin in Helsinki last July ignited a fresh uproar—and his suggestion that Putin come to Washington in the autumn still another. With Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in the lead, that invitation was mocked to death within days. A New Year’s prediction: There will be no second summit with Putin, probably for the duration of Trump’s term in office.
Among the biggest disappointments of the year has been the administration’s failure to build on Trump’s effort to advance a settlement with North Korea after seven decades of tension in Northeast Asia. The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore last May did what initial encounters between heads of state are supposed to do: It established a working rapport. By that measure, any detached judgment of the meeting would have to count it a success.
But the U.S. press uniformly criticized Trump nonetheless for not coming home with the full details of the North’s nuclear disarmament. These same media have since treated us to the usual stories, sourced from the intelligence agencies, that the North is misleading us once again. Result: A second summit appears to have fallen off the White House’s agenda despite Trump’sstatement at the UN last autumn that the two leaders would meet again “quite soon.”
One does not have to entertain any liking for Donald Trump to find this pattern disturbing. It suggests that our foreign policy cliques, wedded to an orthodoxy devoted more or less entirely to U.S. primacy, have positioned themselves—over the course of many administrations—to dictate America’s conduct abroad even to our presidents. There is danger in this, no matter who the occupant of the White House happens to be.