Image: (Spc. Anthony Vendejas/Army)
The Syrian Civil War has been raging ever since their attempted revolution during the Arab Spring in 2011. This conflict has devolved into all out chaos. The war has been going on for eight years. Over 500,000 Syrians have been killed, many of them civilians. Five million Syrians have had to flee, and over seven million have been internally displaced, all while having to deal with the emergence of ISIL in their country. All this chaos resulted from Bashar al-Assad refusing to step down from power, which has left his country in shambles. This crisis has gotten many other countries and political entities involved as well, whether it is through humanitarian aid or sending in troops to fight on behalf of or against the resistance. Some of these entities include: Turkey, Russia, Iran, ISIS, the Lebanese Hezbollah Party, the Kurds, Saudi Arabia and the US, just to name a few. Many believe In fact, a big reason that the civil war has gone on for so long is because it has served as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the US and Russia.
America’s involvement in the Syrian civil war first started with the US sending humanitarian aid to citizens who had been displaced by the war. This later changed as the threat of ISIS began to emerge in Syria and Iraq. Former president Barack Obama decided to begin airstrikes on ISIS strongholds in Syria to help weaken the terror group in September of 2014. These airstrikes eventually evolved into the deployment of about 2,000 troops on the ground troops to collaborate with Syrian freedom fighters and Syrian Kurds to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which helped push ISIL out of some of their major strongholds.
Russia eventually got involved to help defeat terrorists in the region. However, this led the US to speculate that they were actually there to help prop up the Assad regime. Before Russia’s involvement in the civil war, Assad was beginning to lose to the rebel factions. However, ever since their arrival, Assad and his forces in conjunction with the Russian forces have begun to take back parts of the country. Assad has even gone on record stating that he is thankful for Russia’s help: “The Russian forces are important for balance in our region, at least in the Middle East until the political equilibrium changes…Russia is a great power and therefore it has a duty to the whole world.”
Current president Donald Trump believes that the threat of ISIS has been eliminated in Syria and that it is time for US troops to withdraw from the region. Many lawmakers and members of Congress strongly disagree with Trump’s decision to withdraw troops. They believe that the region is not stable yet and if the US were to leave it would create another power vacuum in the Middle East. The US’ original goal was simply to prevent the spread of ISIL in the country, but during that process they took on another responsibility: preventing a clash between the Kurds and Turkey. If the US were to withdraw from Syria, Turkey could eventually take over the US’ role as a peacekeeper seeing as though they already have taken in many Syrian refugees. While this would help resolve tensions between the US and Turkey, this action would also leave the Kurds at Turkey’s mercy, after they helped lead the operation to remove ISIL. However, the biggest problem is that this situation could be a repeat of the US pulling out of Iraq, which many argue led to the formation of ISIL. The pull out led to a power vacuum that many former Al Qaeda terrorists exploited to form the terror cell ISIL. When the US left the country with no legitimate infrastructure and with a surplus former soldiers who only knew war, Al-Qaeda seized the opportunity. The faction started in Iraq and eventually moved to Syria to fight against government forces there with hopes of possibly exploiting the power vacuum that would have been left in the event of Assad’s ouster.
There is no use in the US immediately withdrawing troops from Syria before the ISIL threat has been completely eradicated. Brett McGurk, a senior official in the Trump administration stated, “It would be reckless if we were to just say, the physical caliphate is defeated, we can just leave now, anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.” Even other Republicans such as Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham have vehemently opposed the withdrawal. The withdrawal is a fluid situation and it leaves the President with the decision: to leave or not to leave?