Bolton walks back Trump’s Syria troop withdrawal
8 January 2019
US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have embarked on what could be described as a “walk back” tour of the Middle East. Its purpose is to assure US regional allies that Washington is not about to implement the decision announced by President Donald Trump last month to carry out a speedy and total withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
When Trump made his surprise announcement on December 19, administration officials indicated that the president had ordered a complete withdrawal within 30 days. He posted a video on Twitter declaring: “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.”
The announcement unleashed a political firestorm in Washington, leading to the resignation of both US Defense Secretary James Mattis and the American envoy to the so-called anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk.
Leading Democrats as well as the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post reacted as if the sky had fallen. The thought that the illegal US troop deployment in Syria would be abruptly ended was treated as a veritable act of treason, while Gen. “Mad Dog” Mattis’ quitting the administration was mourned as a tragedy for the nation. The general line was that the US had lost an irreplaceable statesman, his responsibility for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and his boasting that “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot” Muslims notwithstanding.
The promise to bring an end to the US wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan was an integral part of Trump’s “America First” 2016 election campaign platform, which he was able to use to considerable effect against his rival, Hillary Clinton, who was…