Summary of Hard Truths in Syria

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President Trump’s decision in late 2018 to withdraw US Special Forces from Syria caused alarm among US allies – including Kurdish fighters relying on US support for their survival. What has America’s very limited military deployment achieved in Syria? And what are the consequences of its withdrawal? Brett McGurk answers these questions and explains how the United States can make the best out of its weakened position in the region.

About the Author

Brett McGurk was US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS from October 2015 to December 2018.



US strategic objectives related to the Syrian Civil War were strictly limited from the beginning: To defeat ISIS and to help locals resettle into former ISIS territory. Under President Obama, the United States deployed 2,000 Special Forces troops working with its allies and 60,000 Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters to achieve these goals. By the end of 2018, ISIS lost its grip on Syria, violence in the country had plummeted, and US and SDF forces controlled nearly one-third of Syrian territory.

Having forces on the ground gave the US considerable leverage over Russia, the other great power...

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