In an interview on CBS, Trump outlined his U.S. strategy for Syria if ISIS makes a comeback due to the vacuum created by the pullout of U.S. troops:
“We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I’m not leaving,” he said. “We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean, I was there recently, and I couldn’t believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And these — I’ve rarely seen anything like it.”
The Ain al-Asad military base in Iraq to which Trump was referring was nearly the site of a deadly attack over the weekend. Iraqi military personnel discovered and managed to defuse three Grad rockets pointed at the base set with electronic timers. The projectiles, which were made in Iran, were set to fire 15 minutes before they were disabled.
Trump also said he plans to transfer some of the American troops stationed in Syria to Iraq.
ISIS fighters still retain a stronghold in southeastern Syria in an area of about six square kilometers in the villages of Marashida and Baghuz Fawqani, both located close to the Iraqi border. At the height of the terror group’s power in the Middle East, it controlled 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq, territory the size of Britain.
Despite his assertion that the U.S. will return to Syria if needed, Trump is facing stiff opposition from 43 Republicans in the Senate over the pullout.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, called the withdrawal plan “tragic” and “unconscionable.”
In an interview on Fox, Johnson spoke about the dire consequences of the pullout for America’s Kurdish allies as well as the possibility of the re-emergence of ISIS.
“ISIS was able to rise from the thoroughly defeated ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and I don’t want to be making the same statement six months from now that we bugged out of Syria unwisely and that ISIS has re-emerged from the defeated ashes of ISIS in Syria,” he said, adding,“I think it would just be tragic if we bugged out, left the Kurds who, by and large, have done the fighting and have defeated the ISIS caliphate, the territorial caliphate and ISIS, if we just abandoned them to the mercies — and I use that term loosely — of Russia and Iran and, possibly, Turkey. It would just be unconscionable.”
Shortly after announcing the pullout, the U.S. demanded Turkey guarantee the safety of the Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria when America leaves the region. However, Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Erdogan, called the demand “a very serious mistake” and flatly told U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, “We cannot make any concessions in this regard.”
Erdogan’s spokesman reiterated Turkey would not seek permission from its allies to attack the Kurds, whom it regards as its mortal enemy due to their nationalist aspirations. He did say Turkey will coordinate its operations with its allies in this regard.