Trump blindsides Congress and U.S. military commanders, announcing that American forces will be leaving Syria, much to the delight of Putin

This past March, Donald Trump threatened to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” the President said. “Let the other people take care of it now.” Well, today, Donald Trump made good on that promise, announcing though Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White that, “We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.” Explaining the controversial move in a tweet, Donald Trump said that it made sense, given that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.” This, of course, is not true. The terrorist threat, as UK defense minister Tobias Ellwood said shortly after the announcement was made, is still “very much alive.”

The response in the U.S. was extremely critical, even among Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia.” He then went on to add, “I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world.” And Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said, “I’ve never seen a decision like this since I’ve been here, in 12 years, where nothing is communicated in advance.” And, it would seem, not only did Trump not tell Congress what he had intended to do, but he didn’t even tell the military. “The President’s generals have no idea where this weak decision came from,” Senator Ben Sasse told reporters this afternoon. And the Washington Post reported “confusion as military officials raced to outline plans for a rapid departure of the entire U.S. force of more than 2,000 troops” that have been on the ground since 2015, leading the NATO coalition.

As Graham said, this was a big win for Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. In fact, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper, a Pentagon official asked him, once the story broke, “So, when does Russia announce their victory?” The answer came just a little later, when the Russian embassy in the U.S. posted the following, praising the President’s surprise move.

It’s no secret that Putin has long wanted the U.S. to leave Syria, where, since 2015, Russian forces have backed the brutal dictator Bashar al Assad, who, you can be sure, will step up his attacks against our Kurdish allies once we leave. As Bret Stephens of the New York Times wrote this afternoon, this is “a gift to Iran, Hezbollah, and Putin, and a shameful betrayal of our Kurdish allies,” who have been been fighting alongside us in the battle against ISIS these past several years. But it would appear that these “American allies (who) will be slaughtered,” as Ben Sasse referred to them earlier today, don’t matter all that much to Donald Trump.

As for what does matter to Donald Trump, once again, it would look as though he’s primarily motivated by an all-consuming desire to please Vladimir Putin, who, coincidentally, will be holding his annual press conference tomorrow in Moscow. And, as no other explanation seems to make sense as to why Donald Trump would do this today, I’m inclined to agree with Russia watcher Julia Davis when she says that this was a “gift” to Putin, who, you can be sure, will hold this American retreat up as a great victory tomorrow. [Davis wrote earlier today, upon hearing the announcement about our pulling out troops, that “champagne will be flowing at the Kremlin.”]

Davis, for what it’s worth, isn’t just speculating here. She knows that, when Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, without any other representatives of the U.S. government present, that Putin stressed his desire to have our troops pull out of the global proxy war being waged in Syria. As Davis points out, we even have some of Putin’s notes from Helsinki, which were photographed in his hands upon leaving the meeting with Trump, which, coincidentally, sound very much like the talking points being offered by members of the administration today in Washington. [Just compare the above quote from Dana White to what Putin has written in his notes.]

Oh, and it was also announced today that the Tump administration would be lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close personal friend of Putin’s… Make of that what you will.

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  1. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Removal of our troops will lead to more civilian suffering and deaths for sure. Still, the antiwar contingent here will no doubt celebrate Trump’s isolationist move– I mean, as isolationist as we can be when our foreign policy is being controlled by Putin.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the GOP spins this one.

  2. Trump responds
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    “Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight…..”

  3. Trump responds
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    “Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA”

  4. wobblie
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Ending one cause of our continues war crimes is good.

    Why does the US get to tell the Syrians how their country is ruled? The only answer I can think of is WE WANT WAR
    18 years of it seems to support that answer.

  5. John Brown
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Check out Putinas Orwellian self congratulatory marathon press conference. This is where we”ll be soon if we continue to tolerate violation of democratic norms like we are now.

    Also this xmas be sure to remind all your treason enabling relatives that the Pittsburgh anti-semitic murders inspired by the scaravan, and the soon to be genocide of Kurds, amongst many more, are directly on them. But hey, in their defense they got a rapey judge…

  6. Arlo by proxi
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    went down and got my physical examination one day, and I walked in, sat
    Down (got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when
    I went in that morning, ’cause I wanted to look like the All-American Kid
    From New York City. I wanted to feel like I wanted to be the
    All-american Kid from New York), and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down
    Brung down, hung up and all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things
    And I walked in, I sat down, they gave me a piece of paper that said “Kid
    See the psychiatrist in room 604”
    I went up there, I said, “Shrink, I want to kill. I want to kill! I want to see
    Blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I
    Mean Kill. Kill!”
    And I started jumpin’ up and down, yellin’ “KILL! Kill!” and he started
    Jumpin’ up and down with me, and we was both jumpin’ up and down, yellin’
    “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!” and the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me
    Sent me down the hall, said “You’re our boy”. Didn’t feel too good about it

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    “Why does the US get to tell the Syrians how their country is ruled?”
    You understand there was a civilian rebellion going on against an abusive, murderous, totalitarian dictator., right?

    Seems not.

  8. wobblie
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    What business was ours intervening in Syria’s domestic problems?

  9. John Galt
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    You are going to have to amend your post. Donald Trump just said definitively that “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving” Syria, so you were wrong about that. Putin is furious that we’re ceding the country to him, just furious.

    Read it for yourself, Buster:

  10. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Syria worsened because we didn’t get involved. Democratic revolutions against dictators reasonably expect US support. We executed poorly under Clinton as SOS and then withdrew entirely (but with no clear policy, no policy at all) under Kerry. And we ended up with mass murders and the growth of ISIS and a mass migration/humanitarian crisis.

    We have the military power and foreign policy influence . That’s who we are for better or worse. If we use our power or withhold it, our power over the cl sequences is putsized. Any kind of simple answer (isolationist or hard power) from the US to foreign policy issues has brutal conditions sequences on those abroad. And they sure know it.

    You know who screams ‘America go Home’ abroad? People supporting brutal regimes. When the people on the ground tell us to leave we should. We fucked up in Syria and the ramifications to our worldwide stability have been massive. The current assension of anti-immigrant right wing isolationists in Europe and even Brexit are off shoots of our failure there.

    I do not love American military might or how we have used it. But withdrawal now is more than irresponsible; it would be criminal. Also stupid.

  11. M
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Trump yesterday: “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.”

    Trump today: “now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us”

    Serious question…. Did we, or did we not, defeat ISIS in Syria.

  12. Lindsey Graham to Trump
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    It is not FAKE NEWS that Russia, Iran, and Assad are unhappy about our decision to withdraw from Syria.

    They are ECSTATIC!

  13. Putin by proxy
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “On this, Donald is right. I agree with him,” Putin said.


  14. Anonymous
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Adm. James Stavridis on Trump’s Syria withdrawal: “This is a massive geopolitical win for Putin … It’ll be written globally as a walk-away and a betrayal. This is really, geopolitically, the worst move I’ve seen from this administration. That’s a high bar to get over.”

  15. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Nooooo! We want WAR!!!

  16. wobblie
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Trump found away to celebrate the anniversary of one of our other wars we have conveniently forgotten all about.

    The problem is almost any day of the year is an anniversary of us attacking some one. I guess it is the American Way. EOS, FF and HW don’t know how to respond because in their hearts they agree with JH and MM–It is good for business and the business of America is business

  17. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    How do I not know? I cheered.

  18. EOS
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    No, I’ve been against our involvement from the start. If Iran wants to use Syria as their proxy and ISIS wants to fight the Shia, then I don’t see any reason to put American lives in the middle. Obama ran weapons through Benghazi to arm ISIS to overthrow Assad. It’s not our fight. We achieve no positive benefit from occupying Syria. If we overthrew Assad and put in a puppet regime, it would end like the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. To what end? We shouldn’t be aiding ISIS for any reason.

  19. EOS
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Anybody remember how we used the Taliban to fight Russia in Afghanistan? How’d that work out?

  20. iRobert
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Who’s in favor of sending Jean to fight in Syria? Raise your hands.

    We’ll have to talk to a judge about getting her an early parole, but I think they’d agree once they had assurances we’d be sending Jean to sort things out in Syria.

  21. iRobert
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    …oh, and I’m saying this because apparently Jean is a woman. …or claims to be, anyway. It seems I have a problem with that. I wouldn’t know. I’m playing catch-up here.

  22. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    My family have served in the wars. (All of the majors up to Afghanistan) Every generation but no, not the women. Still the women felt the impact of absent men. They ran the family businesses while the men were at war. My family sponsored Soutg East Asian refugees in our home from 72 to ‘86. I understand the costs of war. I guess now maybe we’ll learn the costs of US isolationism.

    There can’t be anything more simplistic than being against war because you think that makes you hands clean of responsibility for geopolitical upheaval, strife, and suffering as well as US imperialism. Nothing could be less true.

    Worse, that position (like Trumps move here) is likely to spare privileged Americans at great cost to others farther down the geopolitical food chain. It certainly has proven true in Syria so far.

    What is a better expression of smug liberal self centering than proud white peace activists. Something poc and WC Whotes agree on…. You are one hell of a supporter of the common man, Wobblie. Or was it iRobert? Hard to tell the difference lately.

    EOS -‘How’d that work out?’ Re an unrelated proxy war is not analysis worth considering.

  23. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink


    FWIW, Although I have a very limited understanding of the troops in Syria, I do have an opinion, and I think maybe I have thought about the forces at play a little more than the average person, which might not be a lot, but I think I usually agree with what you have to say about involvement in Syria.

  24. Bob
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Arlo Guthrie is a registered Republican

  25. wobblie
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    EOS, finally some common ground. I guess miracles do happen–Merry Christmas.
    If I remember right I am about the only one to have brought up the plight of the Kurds last year when our good allies the Turks were busy killing them in Afrin. I remember sharing info about the Woman Protection Units and the secular institutions they were creating in the Northwest of Syria. Turkey has been preparing a 2nd. invasion of North Syria. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been the primary foreign supporters of ISIS. The US withdrawal from Syria will compel the Syrian Democratic Forces (ie. the YPG and the Womans Protective Units) to negotiate with Assad. This is already occurring. It looks like in exchange for some oil fields the SDF holds, Assad will send his SAA to the border with Turkey–thus preventing Turkey from engaging in a war on the Kurds.
    That would be a good outcome at this point.

    JH and the other supporters of staying in Syria, Trump may have actually put together a WIN WIN situation. Erdoğan hates the Kurds. He uses the on going war with them to justify his authoritarianism and militarism. We did nothing to stop his last invasion and occupation of Kurdish controlled areas of Syria and subsequent ethnic cleansing. For us to protect the Kurds means fighting Turkey. If you are anti-Russia which you all seem to be, our staying would have only pushed the Turks out of NATO–either that or we would have had to look the other way while he kills Kurds. This way we get the Russians and Syrians to hold Erdogan in check, the military industrial complex gets a 3.5 billion dollar deal with Turkey instead of the Russians, and we ease up on sanctions on Russian aluminum.

  26. NYT Breaking News
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Kurdish Fighters Discuss Releasing 3,200 ISIS Prisoners in Response to Trump decision to pull all US forces out of Syria:

  27. EOS
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Merry Christmas Wobblie!,

    The Kurds have been extremely helpful to us and we abandon them at every opportunity. I don’t think we will step and stop the Turks. The Kurds should have an autonomous government in Northern Iraq but the Turks would not allow this for fear the Kurds would attack them at some later date. I’m not sure why the Kurds have been the scapegoats for so long.

  28. EOS
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    step in

  29. John Brown
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, Trumpty Dumpty climbed back up on his wall. To deflect from Syria? Which was deflecting from investigations? That’s some stable geniusing right there.

  30. Anonymous
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s not geniusing at all. He’s reacting to Fox and Friends. I think that show realizes that they speak directly to Trump through teevee and can really influence what he does, since he likes to be approved by them.

  31. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Agreed re the Kurds EOS. We have treated them like shit. Very frustrating.

    PS Mattis resigned, so we’re just super screwed all around on foreign policy. The good news is that Trump on FP without his keepers is what scares most establishment GOP the most. My guess is there will be enough of them willing to reign him in and side with Dems if he goes rogue.

  32. Jean Henry
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    the resignation letter is telling.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] « Trump blindsides Congress and U.S. military commanders, announcing that American forces will… […]

  2. By The Twelve Lies of Christmas on December 24, 2018 at 8:33 am

    […] The day after Trump stunned our allies, elected officials, and military commanders by announcing an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, he tweeted that Russia was “not happy” about the move. This, as we know, is an […]

  3. […] in December, 2018, without consulting any of his national security advisors, Donald Trump announced that we’d be pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria. The response, as you might remember, was both swift and overwhelmingly negative. Lindsey Graham […]

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