As it turns out, running U.S. foreign policy based on gut instinct isn’t working out so well for Donald Trump.
This week, apparently without consulting his own military leadership, Trump announced that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria, and he was pulling U.S. troops out of that country. It was one of the factors that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to announce on Thursday his departure from the administration.
Now, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS, Brett McGurk, has announced that he, too, is quitting early. His departure on Dec. 31 is part of “an administration exodus of experienced national security officials,” the Associated Press reported.
McGurk had planned on leaving his position in February, but moved up the date because he disagrees with Trump on the decision to withdraw U.S. troops and because he believes the president’s statement that ISIS has been defeated is wrong.
“Nobody working on these issues day to day is complacent. Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished,” McGurk said earlier this month at a State Department briefing, according to The Washington Post.
In a resignation letter delivered to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, McGurk, who was appointed in 2015 by President Barack Obama, said he could not carry out Trump’s orders while maintaining his own integrity.
An analysis by The Daily Beast of the complex situation in Syria indicates that Trump may have been caught in a power play by Turkey and an effort by National Security Adviser John Bolton to expand the U.S.’ role there.
“Bolton in September added a second mission to the already open-ended operation in Syria: In addition to destroying the so-called Islamic State, U.S. troops would stay in Syria indefinitely, forcing Iranian forces there to eventually withdraw,” The Daily Beast reported.
But in a Dec. 14 phone call, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Trump, according to The Daily Beast, that “his anti-ISIS mission was accomplished.” Erdogan “questioned the rationale of a prolonged U.S. deployment…” The Turkish leader also had threatened to invade an area where U.S. troops were stationed with Syrian Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.
Nevertheless, even Turkey seems to have been caught off guard by Trump’s impulsive decision. “Everyone understood we would change our posture, but this was seemingly so knee-jerk, especially not having a plan with respect to the Kurds,” a senior U.S. administration official told the Daily Beast.
In what may be the understatement of the year, a senior European official told the news site that “D.C. seems in disarray now…”
You could say that.