On Monday, President Trump announced that a contingent of fewer than 100 U.S. troops in Syria was being moved away from Kurdish-held territory on the border of Turkey. The move effectively green-lighted military operations by Turkey against the Kurds, which have now commenced.
Some U.S. military officials went public with complaints about being “blindsided.” The policy cannot have been a surprise, though. The president has made no secret that he wants out of Syria, where we now have about 1,000 troops (down from over 2,000 last year). More broadly, he wants our forces out of the Middle East. He ran on that position. I’ve argued against his “endless wars” tropes, but his stance is popular. As for Syria specifically, many of the president’s advisers think we should stay, but he has not been persuaded.
The president’s announcement of the redeployment of the Syrian troops came on the heels of a phone conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This, obviously, was a mistake, giving the appearance (and not for the first time) that Trump is taking cues from Ankara’s Islamist strongman. As has become rote, the inevitable criticism was followed by head-scratching tweets: The president