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U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrard thanks Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel during a visit to a small outpost near the town of Manbij, Syria, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Susannah George).

Trump’s Syria Decision Could Mark a Dramatic Shift in U.S. Security Strategy

Friday, April 13, 2018

A little more than a year into his administration, President Donald Trump is facing a major decision on America’s next steps in Syria. His predecessor, Barack Obama, first sent U.S. troops into the country’s civil war to help local opposition forces defeat the self-styled Islamic State. Trump then increased the number of U.S. forces on the ground there. But now that the Islamic State has been driven back in Syria, losing much of the territory it once claimed as its “caliphate,” Trump has indicated that he might withdraw U.S. forces “very soon.”

Officials in the Pentagon advocate a different approach. Simply crushing the Islamic State on the battlefield and then withdrawing, they believe, might allow the extremists to regroup and move back in. Even if they don’t, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could exploit American disengagement to wipe out the local forces that Washington has supported, benefiting the Syrian regime’s Iranian and Russian allies. Leaving too soon, the Pentagon believes, would turn a hard-won success against the Islamic State into a strategic failure. ...

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