Former Deputy Assistant Secretary to Rumsfeld: "The U.S. troops have played a significant role in defeating ISIS in Syria"

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary to Rumsfeld: "The U.S. troops have played a significant role in defeating ISIS in Syria"

Vzglyad.Az interviews Jack David, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank of Washington D.C., former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for combating weapons of mass destruction and negotiations policy from 2004-2006.

- What circumstances led President Trump to withdraw American troops from Syria?

- The Trump administration decided to bring home the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. As far as I know, and as described in the news media, the announcement of the troop withdrawal was not accompanied by any statement that other support for U.S. anti-ISIS or other allies in Syria or in the region would be withdrawn. I don’t know what specific reason President Trump had for his decision or for the timing of his decision. However, since the time U.S. troops were sent to Syria many knowledgeable U.S. citizens have questioned whether the role that 2,000 U.S. troops could play there was sufficiently necessary for the pursuit of U.S. goals in Syria and the region to warrant the risk to their lives or the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer dollars. I believe that the U.S. troops have played a significant role in defeating ISIS in Syria. But there is much less that U.S. troops can do in Syria against a now diminished ISIS than they have done in the past. That too may have played a role in President Trump’s decision to bring the troops home.

- Should expect any major changes in the Middle East region after the Americans left Syria? What will the region face after the Americans leave Syria?

- I believe that U.S. policy for the Middle East will not significantly shift. It is evident that Turkey may play a larger role on the Syria front against the remnants of ISIS than it has up to now. I hope that Tukey will not step up its independent rivalry/conflict with the Kurds. However, I doubt that any major changes in the Middle East region will be caused by Turkey’s larger role alone.

- How did the American public respond to Trump's decision?

- President Trump’s decision to bring the 2,000 U.S. troops home was met with hostility from the media. But virtually anything President Trump does is met with media hostility. The results of a recent survey of the American people by a highly regarded surveying company indicated that 37% agreed with the president’s decision to withdraw the troops, 47% disagreed and 16% were undecided. However, the only reason President Trump gave for his action was that the fight to eliminate ISIS from Syria was the primary reason the U.S. troops were there and that the fight has been won. Another recent poll of the American people by the same highly regarded surveying company showed that 60% of Americans believe we are winning the fight against ISIS and only 9% believe ISIS are winning (the other 31% believing neither is winning or don’t know). Perhaps the views of the American people on this question played a role in President Trump’s decision.

- By the way, after Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, there were reports that the Americans were preparing a plan for withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan. As learned, the US administration intends to halve the military presence in Afghanistan. According to their information, the special forces strike groups will remain in the country to conduct raids against the Taliban and ISIL. How plausible is this information?

- I am not sure that “the United States plans to halve” the troops it has in Afghanistan. U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan for more than 17 years. Originally, the troops were there to achieve two objectives: first to kill or capture Osama bin Laden; second to make sure that the terrorists could not use Afghanistan as a base to again attack the U.S. as the Osama led terrorists did on September 11, 2011. The first of those goals clearly was achieved several years ago. It is not so clear that the second goal has been completely achieved. The U.S. government wants to bring the U.S. troops home. But it will leave troops in Afghanistan in sufficient quantity and capabilities it believes necessary pursue the second goal against Taliban militants and Islamic State terrorist groups. The matter is under review at the highest levels and no final decisions of which I am aware have been made.

- In your opinion, is the United States unable to support its global empire?

- The U.S. and its citizens do not regard themselves as having or seeking a global empire. Rather, since the end of World War II, the U.S. by its military, diplomatic and political leadership has sought to establish an international system where competition among nations can be conducted and disagreements among nations resolved in accordance with commonly agreed upon laws and principles rather than by military conflict with tens of millions of deaths, as in World War I and World War II. Also, since the end of World War II, the U.S. has sought to promote freedom for individuals and democracy as a system of ordering groups of people. The U.S. has adhered to these goals for 231 years, and the peace, prosperity and security U.S. citizens have enjoyed as a result has convinced many Americans that others also could benefit from them. It also is true that the horrible consequences of two World Wars have made preventing another such war a U.S. priority. But the U.S. pursuit of these goals does not constitute seeking or maintaining a global empire in my opinion.

Seymur Mammadov
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