As much of the national security establishment pushes back against President Donald Trump’s calls for a swift withdrawal from Syria, officials are again leaking details of the president’s classified meetings to the media.
The president recently stated that the U.S. will be leaving Syria “very soon,” but the Pentagon, State Department, and CIA reportedly all support long-term involvement in Syria, with senior leadership expressing concerns about the ramifications of a hasty withdrawal from the war-torn country. The president became “testy” and signaled “his patience is running out” on the Syria issue during a meeting with the National Security Council at the White House Tuesday, CNN and The Associated Press, citing officials familiar with the situation but not “authorized” to discuss it, reported.
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Trump has yet to publicly order the withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 American troops in Syria, but he has made his intentions clear. “I want to get out,” he said at a press conference Tuesday, adding, “I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.” But as the president, who was elected by a population that overwhelmingly opposes greater involvement in the region, demands withdrawal, the bureaucracy is fighting to stay in Syria and apparently leaking like a sieve.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford argued that leaving Syria early might create a power vacuum in which Russia, Turkey, and Iran could pursue their own interests at the expense of America’s national interests, an administration official told CNN. These three countries are presently meeting in Ankara to plan Syria’s future.
The same official claimed that Trump proposed a six-month timeline for withdrawal, but another leaky official refuted this assertion.
Officials left the gathering feeling “beside themselves” over the president’s unwillingness to stick around and rebuild Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State, another individual briefed on the meeting revealed to CNN. Beyond pointing to the possibility that ISIS may re-emerge in the aftermath of a U.S. withdrawal and that pulling out of the war-torn country may advance interests contrary to our own, advocates of greater involvement in Syria consistently struggle to clearly articulate how America’s strategic interests are served by staying.
Since the start of his presidency, Trump has faced difficulties plugging leaks from those officials deeply opposed to the full implementation of his domestic affairs and foreign policy agenda.
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