The news hit last week that President Trump has tweeted a ‘victory’ over Daesh in Syria and have announced a complete withdrawal of US troops from the country. The US forces were advising and fighting alongside the SDF forces on the Eastern wing of Syria. He as promised in the election would withdraw from the Syrian fiasco. However, various scholars have suggested that this may only be symbolic as the deep state and the pentagon will force US to remain in the conflict. This also brings in chances of false flag attacks like the White Helmet staged so-called chemical attacks to bring the US back into the conflict.
Purpose of Donald Trump’s statement
Trump on a video have declared victory over Daesh in Syria, as the last town held by the militant group was taken by the SDF this month in Deir ez-Zor. Trump significantly swaggered about his decisiveness in the defeat of the terrorist entity. However, the reality lies elsewhere as the Russian operation in 2015 in support of the Syrian Government have started to shift the Daesh’s stronghold in the country. Trump was quick to take all the credit for the defeat of this group. Trump also bragged about Daesh’s defeat in the City of Raqqa, controversially, as the city remains in ruins due to heavy bombardment from the American Air Force.
The US still is in Syria by occupying the Al-Tanf base in the Southern part of the Syrian Republic. As long as the US does not withdraw from the base it cannot be completely said that the US has withdrawn from the country. Therefore, this whole announcement of ‘victory’ for US should be observed with scrutiny.
What might happen next
The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) the Kurdish forces who were supported by the Americans throughout the conflict in the battle against Daesh, if they can take out the remain pockets of area held by Daesh in Eastern Syria this would limit American presence in the country. However, the US occupation of a base is in a different part of Syria in the South in the area where the so-called moderate rebels are present. Whose factions are also being supported by the Erdoğani Turkish army in the North. This may imply a coordination within the NATO forces in order to abandon the Kurdish groups in Turkey’s benefit.
Furthermore, more confusion arises as the Turks are in the Northern area bordering the Kurdish region of Syria, if they are to operate in the Ayn-al-Arab district particularly the Kobani city. This would force the SDF to reduce its presence in the Euphrates arena against Daesh which would force them to reinforce Kobani at the expense of the fighting Daesh. Eventually if this is to occur, Daesh will get much breathing space to take some more areas. Furthermore, if this occurs the US will be ‘concerned’ about this and would not withdraw as it would justify its involvement.
Another question arises if the Syrian Arab Army and the government establishes full control in the Eastern part of the Deir ez-Zor province, the US military presence of the Al-Tanf base in the South will be brought further into light. This base is important for the US as long as there is control of US military in the Eastern part of Deir ez-Zor.
What can Russia do?
Russia in 2019 in order to reduce US presence and threat from Israel could deploy S-300 air defence system across Syria, particularly near the Deir ez-Zor province. Also, Russia could engage in electronic warfare systems in Syria as well. This would discourage US involvement in an already aimless conflict for them. The rebel groups are on the brink of defeat after Daesh’s irradiation. The US’s reasons to stay in the country is running low.
Besides, Russia may alert and bring into light the Rukban refugee camp, where reportedly radical militants are seeking refuge in the Rebel held area next to the Al-Tanf base occupied by the US. These radical elements remain under the protection of the US military.
How will the US allies respond?
According to the SDF and Kurds in Syria the US has committed another betrayal by leaving SDF astray. As a looming Turkish threat emerges for them in the North while fighting against Daesh is yet to continue, they clearly hoped for further US backing especially against the Turkish threat. Especially in Manjib where the US formed a coalition with the Turkish forces against the Syrian Kurds. This sort of ‘betrayal’ from the US might happen in Afrin due to the strategic importance of Turkey for the US.
Now the Turkish forces are looking towards neutralising the Kurdish threat across borders. Further, this can also happen in Kobani if the Turks decide to take the city to weaken the Kurds. However, this might force the Kurds to negotiate with Damascus and might bring them closer under the Russian umbrella in the conflict and this may develop further if these series of events take place.
Unsurprisingly, the statement of US troops withdrawing from Syria is welcomed in Damascus and follow up on the announcement is expected. Presently, there is an approximately 2000 US special forces across Syria. Majority of them are in Al-Tanf base, however, they are widely spread around the country.
Anyhow, the US presence of in Syria will be significantly reducing and they would gradually or seemingly take a more of a backing role of its key ally Turkey. However, if Turkey decides to maintain the Astana format and cooperate with Russia the US role in Syria would die out. The US goals in Syria have significantly failed, first to overthrow the legitimate government in Damascus, then use proxies against Russia, and then use Turkey to pressure Russia. Now, SDF is on the brink of further cooperation with Russia. The future of the conflict will have more impact from the Turkish actions against the SDF and maintaining the of Astana format.