13 April 2018

How Do We Prevent ISIS 2.0? Withdrawing From Syria Is Not The Answer.

By Pavel Baev, Ryan Crocker and Michael O'Hanlon 

The international community also has some assets in Syria. Collectively they do provide raw materials out of which a plausible strategy can be built. American and international strategy towards the horrific conflict in Syria is at a crossroads. ISIS has been largely defeated militarily on the physical battlefield. The top goal of both President Obama and President Trump has been partially achieved, through a strategy they both helped develop and implement. The temptation for Americans in general, and the Trump administration specifically, may be to declare victory and go home — as in fact Trump has just signaled he would like to do, as soon as possible.

That would not be a good idea. Trump deserves credit for his success in Syria, but it represents an interim goal, not a durable achievement. Withdrawing U.S. forces, security assistance, economic aid and diplomatic engagement risks allowing a war that has killed half a million and displaced 12 million to continue — or worse, to expand into a truly regional war. It means that 5 million refugees would remain abroad, continuing to place enormous strains on Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in particular. It also means that pockets of terrorists would remain intact in several parts of the country, and that Washington would be poorly positioned to manage intensifying Israeli anxieties about Iran’s long-range plans in Syria. Meanwhile, Syria would lie in waste, with many of its communities destroyed beyond functionality. That would produce ongoing anger and resentment among the country’s majority Sunnis in particular, conditions that could give rise to ISIS 2.0 . A premature American withdrawal would also concede and condemn even more of the country back to the murderous President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian allies. Our allies who fought to defeat ISIS on the ground could suffer severe retaliation as their positions were overrun…

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