Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Our Useless Clients and Trump’s Misguided Plan for Syria

It would be a terrible mistake to invite these governments to occupy Syrian territory in any case.

Trump’s misguided plan to replace U.S. forces in Syria with Egyptians, Saudis, and others has run into the entirely predictable problem that none of our clients wants to do it:

The Trump administration is struggling to assemble a coalition of Arab military forces to replace U.S. troops battling Islamic State militants in eastern Syria, a roadblock that could indefinitely delay President Trump’s goal of pulling American forces out of the country, U.S. officials said.

Allies in the region are deeply skeptical about sending their troops — and many are even reluctant to contribute funds — to help stabilize cities and towns liberated from Islamic State, according to senior U.S. officials, if the United States intends to pull out, as Trump has threatened.

It comes as no surprise that these governments have no interest in taking Trump up on this offer. Each of them has other more pressing concerns than policing parts of Syria, some have no interest in opposing the Syrian government, all of them are ill-equipped for the task at hand, and it would be a terrible mistake to invite these governments to occupy Syrian territory in any case. That doesn’t mean that the U.S. has to keep its forces in Syria, but it should remind us how useless our clients are to the U.S.

The U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal, and the same would be true of any occupying force provided by U.S. clients. Instead of looking for a substitute occupation force or maintaining one of our own, the U.S. should accept that controlling any part of Syria is not worth the costs and risks that go along with it. The U.S. has no business fighting in Syria, and it has no authority to keep its forces there, so a complete withdrawal from Syria is the only appropriate and legal course of action open to the U.S.



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