On Wednesday December 19, 2018, the president of America ordered a complete withdrawal of all US troops from Syria. The announcement provoked an immediate outcry from within Trump’s own camp as well as his opponents. The rest of the world was left wondering exactly what is America’s short to medium term strategy in the Middle East? The president declared his country’s victory over the terrorist group, ISIS and broke the good news that American boys will soon be returning home from far away battlegrounds. Trump had previously hinted towards such a move through his social media account. He had further elaborated that America’s military commitment in the Middle East was costing billions of dollars in tax payers’ money which should be used for their own benefit. There are around two thousand American troops currently present in Syria. Most of them belong to the special forces. They are responsible for fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, and to provide training to the local militias who control the lands retaken from ISIS. Soon after the announcement, renowned reporters from various news agencies flooded the White house with questions; what is the reason for this hasty decision? Are the Allies in the region on board with this? None of the journalists received a satisfactory answer. However, one pentagon official stated that the withdrawal of US troops will be immediate and total. Its commencement date will be announced very shortly. Of course, the above comments were offered on the condition of anonymity. Trump’s decision came despite warnings from senior Pentagon officials that an abrupt withdrawal from Syria would allow Russia and Iran – America’s rivals – to strengthen their positions within the embattled country. The withdrawal of American troops will further embolden Israel to conduct more raids inside Syria as and when it pleases. It will no longer be restrained by the fear of accidentally hitting American soldiers in the battle fields American withdrawal will place the Kurdish militia, YPG in a very difficult situation. The YPG has been fighting the ISIS in the northern parts of Syria with US backing. The YPG is severely threatened by Turkey which deems it a terrorist organization associated with the Kurdistan Workers (PKK). The PKK is locked in a bloody conflict with the Turkish State for decades. Turkey’s President has repeatedly expressed his desire to get rid of YPG militarily if the Americans are not willing to force it to withdraw from its positions in Northern Syria. Kurds will view American withdrawal from the region as a betrayal. Kurds believe that they have sacrificed quite a lot in this conflict and now it is America’s responsibility to protect them against the imminent Turkish onslaught. They are cornered, and think that America has put them in this place. As if to add insult to the injury, the US approved the sale of Patriot Missile System to Turkey. The 3.4 billion $ deal was also announced on December 19. The Israeli prime minister has stated that he was informed in advance about the American withdrawal from Syria. Since the outbreak of war in Syria, the Jewish state has conducted dozens of raids inside the country targeting, what it calls, terrorist elements and their weapon caches. The withdrawal of American troops will further embolden Israel to conduct more raids inside Syria as and when it pleases. It will no longer be restrained by the fear of accidentally hitting American soldiers in the battle fields. There is strong disagreement within the US administration regarding the pull out. Defense Minister Jim Mattis has warned against extracting American troops from Syria lest a vacuum is inadvertently created which could be exploited by terrorists. Trump’s fellow Republicans and officials within the Pentagon are distressed by the President’s decision. ISIS is not in control of any big city in either Syria or Iraq, but the fighting is far from over. Fighters belonging to the terrorist group are entrenched in the desert where in the absence of a potent force, they can reunite, regroup and resume the fight. Pulling out thousands of troops, their weapons and heavy equipment is a massive logistical challenge. US army commanders are now scrambling to devise ways of carrying out this withdrawal in such a way that territory retaken from ISIS does not fall back into its hands. There is speculation that Trump took this decision in order to distract public attention from a number of scandals surrounding himself. It is being said that whenever the President that is faced with a crisis, he resorts to anything, take any step in order to save himself. No matter what the reason, It is certain that Trump’s decision to leave Syria in a haste is a recipe for disaster. It will further embolden Bashar al Assad’s backers in Russia and Iran, raising the possibility of further brutality. The hope of a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict will be shattered. Trump is America’s worst president. He is also the least competent. The sudden decision to pull out of Syria is a link in a chain of bad decisions Donald Trump has been making since he assumed control of the Oval office. The bad news is that he may not be finished yet. Where there is Trump, there is no room for optimism. The writer is an Investment Banker and has been writing for several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, December 28th 2018.