Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Declaring victory!

Al Jazeera reports that the U.S. ground forces in Syria are going to be gone within 60 to 100 days. Apparently this is because the chances that the Islamic State Navy will appear off New York Harbor to land jihadi marines have become very, very slim:
"Trump tweeted, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."
The "winners" here are clearly the GIs, who get the hell out of a civil war they should never have been inserted into.

Other "winners" include Erdogan's Turkey, which is now free to mop up the Kurdish areas of northern Syria that have been giving the Turks the collywobbles worrying about a Kurdistan in eastern Turkey, Putin's Russia, which now has a free hand to help the third "winner", the Assad government, without worrying about the pesky possibility of a shooting war with the U.S.

The bottom line is that anything that gets my country out of boneheaded land wars in Asia is a good thing, so, frankly, if "Donald the Dove" wants to declare victory and grab a hat from Syria, I'm pretty much okay with that.

But...the losers?

The Kurds, of course. Who, having apparently failed to learn the lessons of 1991, threw their hand in with the Yanquis only to find that spoken promises aren't worth the paper they're not written on. Once again a foreign ally learns the hard lesson that Uncle Sammy is no more trustworthy than any other guy one's he's gotten what he wants off of you.

All together now:

"There's so many times I've let you down
So many times I've played around
I tell you now, they don't mean a thing
Ev'ry place I go, I'll think of you
Ev'ry song I sing, I'll sing for you
When I come back, I'll bring your wedding ring.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again..."

Update 12/19 p.m.: While as a sergeant I'm still fine with just declaring victory and getting the hell out of Syria, at least one individual who was deeply involved in the mission is less thrilled:
"We have not, no matter what the President has said, defeated ISIS. While it is true that ISIS has lost its physical holdings – the self declared caliphate – this actually makes them more dangerous, not counterintuitive as it may seem, it actually increases ISIS’s lethality within and without the Levant in the short term. This is not something that US policymakers, as well as the senior military and civilian leaders tasked with reducing ISIS were unaware of. As is always the case when pursuing strategic objectives, achieving one creates new problems that require new, or at least adjusted, strategies to resolve."
I still tend to think that this is an overall positive for the U.S., but I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise.


Update 12/20:

Update 12/31: Sooo...maybe the GIs aren't going anywhere soon.
"Graham previewed his arguments to Trump for reconsidering the Syria pullout.

"I'm going to ask him to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this. Slow this down. Make sure that we get it right. Make sure ISIS never comes back. Don't turn Syria over to the Iranians. That's a nightmare for Israel," Graham said.

“And, at the end of the day, if we leave the Kurds and abandon them and they get slaughtered, who’s going to help you in the future?” he said. “I want to fight the war in the enemy’s backyard, not ours. That’s why we need a forward-deployed force in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan for a while to come.”
This is why if you have Trump in the office pool it's always smart to bet the under. The sonofabitch is never going to make a deal and stick to it; it's always about whoever talked to him last.

Update 1/7/19: What I said about "Trump and whoever talked to him last"? Well, I'm guessing that it was either Bolton or Bibi, because now the money seems to be on the GIs staying in Syria for...well, who the hell knows? If it's until the IS is destroyed, Iran is defenestrated, and The Turks give up on smashing the Syrian Kurds? Shit, the sun will go nova before the guys in Syria DEROS.

The story is that Casey Stengal was surveying the field where the 1962 Mets were "practicing" and was heard to mutter "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Case, you had NO idea; these jokers make your boys look like the freaking 2917 New York Yankees...


  1. Frankly I will be very surprised (and pleased) if it actually happens.
    The Israel Lobby does *not* want the USA to leave Syria.

    And as far as ISIS in Syria goes, I am happy to leave them to Assad's tender embrace.
    They are his problem now.

  2. Apparently withdrawal is a kickback to Erdogan for purchasing US Patriot missiles instead of the Russian S400 which Pootie was waving under his nose.

    The reported three and a half billion greenbacks for the deal might make a down payment on the wall for Mr Bonespurs.

    What news of the Brit and French troops in Syria? I saw one report that the deal did not affect the Brits, but that may well change.

  3. Patriots are just part of the equation. Meant to add that this withdrawal will also affect a deal to free up the sale of 120 F35s to the Turkish Air Force at $100 Mil each. That plus the Patriot dollars will build Mr Bonespurs three walls. Ever the dealmaker.

    I'm against these sales. Erdogan is too much in Pootie's pocket. Even selling export versions with less than optimal avionics will still give away too much critical defense information.

    1. Keep in mind Turkish officers (post-purge officers!) are involved in NATO defence planning, which since about nine years finally includes actual planning for Baltic defence.

  4. Would arming the SDJ of Rojave work or are those guys screwed once Assads starts to consolidate power?

    1. Over the long haul, the Kurds could not withstand Assad and the SAA. If they are clever, they will bargain for whatever autonomy they can get and then strike a deal. Note that they never completely left the government fold. For example, their high school diploma exams were still sent to Damascus for grading and registration.

    2. They would be more screwed over by Turkey and Turkey's jihadi allies in Syria.

      Assad and Putin know that the SDF can help them against not only ISIS but also against the remaining FSA headchoppers and liver eaters that are now allied with Erdogan. The Kurds have helped Assad in the 2012-to-2016 Battle of Aleppo. They have shared peaceful borders with Assad's troops in Manbij, al-Tabqa, Hasakah, and Qamishlo.

      Assad will take away the local autonomy that the Kurds and Syriacs and Arabs in the Northeast now have and aspire to in the future under a united Syria. That may cause revolts and uprisings in the future.

      But for now? There is a report out that because of the US decision to withdraw, the SDF leadership and the Syrian government are holding a high-level meeting to discuss the handover of the oil fields in the east of the Euphrates.

      Hopefully Putin will strongarm Erdogan to tone down his dreams of re-making northern Syria an Ottoman vilayet. It will be interesting to see how he palys that since it was a Russian greenlight that allowed Turkey to invade Afrin and al Bab in northern Aleppo province.

    3. Thanks for the insights. I had assumed that Putin & Assad would be enough to avoid major bloodshed between Kurds and Turks+Turkmen allies. But I haven't followed the Syrian conflict for quite a while now.

      It's a bad situation all-around and I have a lot of sympathy for the Kurds. But I don't see how they could achieve much more than some local autonomy. And to keep the Syria-conflict going from the outside just so Assad can't consolidate power seems wrong given that the US (+western allies) weren't actually willing to finish the job before.

    4. Marvin -

      I also have a lot of sympathy for the Kurds. But please don't take my scribbling as enlightened insight. Predicting future events is not my strong suit. I've been wrong many times before.

  5. The counterargument to withdrawal always seems to cluster around some form of "the GIs help stabilize the region!" My thought when I hear that is always "The fuck..?"

    The one place I see that as valid is in the Kurd-vs-Turk faceoff in the north. That's why I suspect this owes a lot to a certain tangerine-hued dealmaker hustling his buddy Erdogan. But I fail to see how a bunch of American bombs and bullets "stabilizes the IRGC, or the Saudi fiddling, or the 9-sided-slapfight that is the civil war.

    This will suck huge for the Kurds. But I think that dire warnings of Mad Max style devolution are very much overblown.

  6. I note that almost simultaneously with the withdrawal announcement that sanctions have been lifted on two Russian companies run by oligarch pals of Putin.

    So Donny Boy has made Putin's Russia the biggest winner.

  7. Several reports indicate Paris and London were not consulted before Trump’s announcement, nor were senior officials in the US administration.

    “For now of course we remain in Syria,” French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau told CNews, according to AFP. “The fight against terrorism is not over.”

    “It’s true that the coalition has made significant progress in Syria, but this fight continues, and we will continue it,” she added.

    Florence Parly, the French defence minister, tweeted ISIS “has not been wiped of the map, nor have its roots.”

    “We must definitively defeat the last pockets of this terrorist organization,” she added.

    Contradicting Trump’s claim that ISIS has been defeated in Syria, the British government has also warned the fight is not over.

    “The global coalition against Daesh has made huge progress,” the UK government said in a statement late on Wednesday.

    “Since military operations began, the coalition and its partners in Syria and Iraq have recaptured the vast majority of Daesh territory and important advances have been made in recent days in the last area of eastern Syria which Daesh has occupied.

    “But much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose. Even without territory, Daesh will remain a threat,” it added.

    Retweeting Trump’s claim the group has been defeated, Tobias Ellwood, a junior defense minister in the UK government, said: “I strongly disagree. It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive.”

    A small number of French and British special forces are operating in northeast Syria alongside 2,000 American troops.

    Both France and Britain have provided the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with air support in their effort to dislodge the last remnants of ISIS from its holdout in Deir ez-Zor.

  8. Well, I'm skeptical. Trump has "announced" a lot of things that turn out to be trial balloons, or simply the man's incessant stream-of-consciousness output. This pattern of behavior has been repeated ad nauseum, so I think a lot of caution is warranted.

    Not that I wouldn't like to see it happen.

    And rather than Putin or Turkey as the locus, I think it's more likely Trump's failed effort to get a border wall is just as likely a reason. He's indicated more than once since taking office that he doesn't like defending other people's borders when our own are supposedly ill-defended (I'm paraphrasing).

    My prediction is that our forces will stay. The usual suspects in the natsec establishment are saying the usual things and even comparing this move to what Pres. Obama's "weakness" in Iraq. Trump, ever the egotist, will not like the comparison and those making it are clearly trying to push his buttons to get him back in line.

    1. Well, Mattis likely resigned over this (perhaps over not consulting allies first), read his resignation letter.

    2. AEL -

      Over this certainly, but mainly for blindsiding him with it by tweet. And also over Trump putting GIs on the border, also the government shutdown, also the President negotiating with the Haqqani network a terrorist organization, also the many insults to NATO, and also over the ass-kissing of and selling out to Pootie. This was just the proverbial last straw.

      Funny that yesterday Donny tweeted that he was doing this because ISIS was defeated, yet today he tweets: "Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us. I am building by far the most powerful military in the world. ISIS hits us they are doomed!"

      Paraphrasing Andy, Trump's tweets are simply the man's incessant stream-of-excrement. The man needs a major dose of Immodium.

    3. I was coming here to note that another "loser" appears to be Mattis but Ael beat me to it.

      Trump is so infantile and ignorant that it must be galling for any competent professional to work with him. Mattis must have been willing to tolerate the buffoonery because he was getting the policy he wanted.

      But this? If Commander Bonespurs is just gonna go with his impulse, why would Mattis want to stick around for that humiliation?

    4. @Mike; such behaviour fits perfectly to what Fareed Zakaria described; Trump is a "Bullshit artist" who doesn't care about truth and just makes up bullshit at will.

    5. Sven - True. I believe everyone here knew that long before the election and long before he even considered a run. What flummoxes me is why his own political party moolycoddles him and why his base seems so hypnotized by the BS.

    6. Yeah, wow, looks like the GTFO of Syria and Afghanistan is pretty damn likely now.

    7. The only thing that keeps me from agreeing completely, Andy, is Trump himself. His thing is to scramble in the direction of whichever the last one of his Fox and Friends counselors screeches at him to go. So if Laura Ingraham or Rushbo explodes over him closing down Operation Umpteenth Afghan War he might backtrack.

      But I do agree that this seems as close to closing the book on this as I've ever seen it.

      I still think the man is appalling, but if Trump shuts down the Middle Eastern Expeditionary Forces I'll give him credit for it.

  9. I suppose the right thing to do is to try getting something in return for a withdrawal, dump a shitload of Javelins to the Peshmerga and then withdraw regardless of the negotiations' outcome.

    Trump hat almost two years to get a deal, and it appears he has none (at least not for the country or for allies, though he may have one for his own business).

  10. Are we seeing the final emergence of Donald the dove from the egg of ignorant, racist, white-supremacist,trade-war buffoonery? Now there's talk of shutting down Operation Endless Afghanistan...

    1. Dove my ass! Just desperate to get some relief from the negative press. And he is doing it by negotiating with the Haqqani Network, which is defined as a terrorist organization by the US, the UK, & Canada and blacklisted by the United Nations. And they are reportedly banned by Pakistan, but probably a pretend-ban.

      Ronnie Raygun used to like the Haqqanis also. And Ronnie Ray, like Trump, also negotiated with terroists during Iran-Contra.

    2. Wait...what? You mean that Five-Deferment Donnie ISN'T really a bunny-hugging peacenik who just want peace and everybody to have a cookie?

      Next thing you'll tell me, he doesn't really care whether Gramma gets her medicine and Joey keeps his job at the mill!

      Fake News!

  11. One thing that intrigues me about the outbreak of all this sudden hippie-peacenik-no-more-war-ism emanating from Trump's Twitter feed is where Bolton is in all of this. He's a blood-drunk loon who never met a foreigner he didn't consider a potential body count. But I have to think that he's at least neutral on all this declaring victory and GTFO.

    But...WHY? Bolton famously thinks that OIF was a terrific idea. This is pretty much a finger in that eye. Does The Mustache of Idiocy have a glimmer of an idea that requires armed force elsewhere, such as the South China Sea?


  12. Chief,

    Maybe, but I’m not sure what freeing up ~20k mostly SF, advisors and support troops would do for us in the SCS.

    I would like to know how Bolton plays in all of this. If he’s clearing the field for something else a more likely target is Iran. But I don’t see any serious possibility we’d pull the trigger on that - for now at least.

    Absent evidence, I’d say this appears to be what it is, Trump finally acting on his long-standing skepticism of our ME forever war.

  13. I can't think of anything either, Andy, at least nothing that would benefit from a bunch of snake-eaters and a Marine cannon battalion.

    My spider-sense just gets tingled when this kind of thing happens and the 'Stache is nowhere to be seen. He's like Mack the Knife; you know he's stabbing someone when there's never a trace of red...

  14. It will be interesting to see who Mattis' replacement will be. Given that everyone on the short-list has come out strongly against this announced withdrawal, the bench isn't very deep. Finding someone who wants to work for Trump and supports these withdrawals, and can get through a Senate confirmation could be a tall order.

    1. IIRC there are secretaries of navy, army, air force and a lot of undersecretaries?

  15. Yes, and not just that, but finding someone who wants to work for what amounts to an intellectual four-year-old whose primary executive directive appears to be "I don't want to go to jail and it's your job to help me prevent that!" is going to be pretty ugly. So far almost nobody who has gone to work for this administration has emerged with their reputation intact, and the one's who have stayed - people like Miller and Bolton - had no real reputation outside of "WTF?" to begin with.

    As for the pullout itself, I have a hard time with a lot of the sudden concern for "our Great Power status" coming from people who have been kicking the slats about making war in SW Asia to begin with, though I think SEN Chris Murphy makes some good points:

    "The Trump administration’s policy of prolonging the violence in Syria while locking people inside and refusing to allow refugees to come to the United States is morally repugnant and has without a doubt made us less safe. I support withdrawing troops, but we must also rejoin a diplomatic process that the Trump administration has left to other powers, and we need a surge in humanitarian relief. That’s the only way we can protect the Syrian people against a Turkish incursion or regime reprisals."

    It's worth noting that Trump has proved pretty thoroughly that he can fuck up a wet dream. It's good that he's pushing to GTFO. Whether he has the mental throw-weight to see beyond the immediate public relations response to some sort of actual geopolitical plan...I have NO idea, but I'm not holding my breath.

  16. Silence from the White House about the 5000 US troops in Iraq. Seems to me that should have been the first move. Is that coming soon? Or perhaps Bolton is pushing to stay there to check Iran?

    The conditions for the US leaving Syria were: 1] the end of ISIS; 2] Iran leaving Syria: and 3] the establishment of stability in Syria. None of those have been met. So maybe Bolton thinks Iraq is a platform to help meet conditions #1 and #2? If true, it seems a pipe dream to me. Iraq is deep in bed with Iran - both in the Shia dominated south and the Kurdish north.

    1. I think the point of this is not so much end the military fuckery in the Fertile Crescent as it is to reduce public attention to it. The guys still in Iraq aren't taking fire, so no bad optics. That supposedly gets the Trumpkins Dubya's objective - power projection - without the issues.

      Mind you, it's still a fool's dream. The Iraqis aren't going to throw Tehran to the wolves, and the GIs there aren't the tip of a spear so much as hostages to whatever fortune the IRGC wishes for them. As I noted above; while getting GIs the hell out of A-stan and Syria is a good thing, this isn't happening because Trump has suddenly become Metternich. He's still the same volatile idiot surrounded by dipshits like Pompeo and Bolton. The likelihood of a genuinely sensible Middle Eastern policy is still slim to none.

    2. As far as I can find there is only one US casualty in Syria during 2018.

      14 (or 15? US) casualties in Afghanistan during 2018, plus four Czechs. My beef with the Afghan casualties is that some of them were assassinations by our so-called allies. No such problems with our allies in Syria.

      17 US casualties in Iraq during 2018, plus one Brit. And there are problems there, mainly with the Shia militias, another so-called ally.

  17. Definitely a very Trumpy Trump move. Read the whole thing:

    1. Thanks for the link Andy.

      Erdogan played him like a fiddle.

    2. The sheer incompetence of The Mustache of Idiocy played a huge part, too, FWIW; Erdogan was able to use his own rhetoric against him with that business about "Oh, and your bobos are all doing the victory sack dance on the Islamic State so why are you there, again..?" Why the hell they let Orange Foolius talk to Erdogan is pretty baffling; they should have known the moron would go off-script and should have known that he was looking for an excuse to grab a hat.

      I've compared Trump to Wilhelm IIhere previously, but Charlie Pierce uses a quotation from Cassius Dio to compare him to the disaster of an emperor, Commodus: "And whereas he might easily have put an end to their resistance, he so detested exertion and was so eager for the comforts of city life that he made terms with them."

      Again...anything that gets people in American uniforms out of the rolling clusterfuck that is the Middle Eastern wars is a good thing. If Trump manages that, he's done a good thing.

      But how he was brought to do it reminds us again what an incompetent,adolescent boob We the People have ruling over the Executive branch. This is a guy who let the federal government shut up shop because Rushbo and Ann Coulter and the dolts on a divan of Fox and Friends called him mean names.

      Pause now, for a moment, and consider that the president of the United States can be rolled by talk-radio hosts and the downmarket dregs of the Internet. Think about that for a moment. A long moment.

    3. There's a proper way of unassing a bad decision...this is not that way.

      Also, the Kurd's have been sitting on 3k ISIS fighters...and in lieu of the US pulling out, the Kurd's are seriously considering releasing them.

      Not sure that will help the Kurd's diplomatically with ISIS command, if there is one, but it certainly won't help everyone else.

      Overall, I'm conflicted about us pulling out...yes, we should never have gotten involved in the first place, but whoa, we have a presence there, and pulling out is going to be a big vacuum for everyone else to collapse into.

      I think we're seeing the end results of Trump's incompetence, and I'm sure it's a matter of time before we begin reaping the rewards.

  18. WTF is it with this guy?

    He finally takes time out from his busy Fox and Friends-watching schedule to do a meet-and-greet with the gang in theater (Iraq, in this case)...which is nice, which is fine, which is part of the what-presidents-do-on-holidays in the 21st Century...and, yet, he manages, somehow, to screw that pooch so hard it can't even yelp.

    1. Somehow he and his entourage (I can't bring myself to call it a "staff", since that implies some sort of planning and organization) couldn't be arsed to check in with, y'know, the "host nation" government. This pissed off the Iraqi pols who, while IMO being as much of a fairly-worthless bunch as most Arab pols, are understandably touchy about Americans treating Iraq like a conquered province. The result was an angry shout to vote the Yanquis out. Whether or not that will happen, it was ridiculously needless and a boneheaded oxygen-thief-level fuckup by the POTUS and his groupies.

    2. For a guy who was all fribbly about "giving away our secrets to the enemy" he was remarkably careless about tweeting out the presence of a supposedly-covert USN special operations team. Derp!

    3. And then he proceeded to give the assembled joes and mollies a rip-roaring campaign speech full of political poison about Democratic immigration treason larded with ridiculous lies. My least-favorite was his whopper about how he, he, the Grinch, carved the 10% pay-raise-roast-beast. Seriously? What, you're now Caesar in an orange skinsuit, giving donatives to your loyal legionaries? I mean, I know the guy pretty much sees the Constitution as an asswipe, but that's ridiculous. Here's the exact quote:

    "You haven’t gotten [a raise] in more than ten years. More than ten years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one."

    Aside from being, well, an utter lie, Tangerinius Caesar here couldn't "get them a big one"; he doesn't have the "power of the purse". I wouldn't expect GIs to know that - I did, but I'd taken "US Government" and con law in college - so it's utterly vile for him to try and buy loyalty with that lie.

    There was more of the usual Trumpian bullshit, but those were the real low points.

    It's like this guy has the reverse-Midas touch; no matter what he touches it turns to shit.


  19. And I'd LOVE to know where all the freaking MAGA stuff came from, and why the hell the commander of that installation, or the units involved, let their troops be photographed in a political campaign event. That's a huge, HUGE U.S. military no-no.

    Between the unit commanders letting DOPUS get involved in a big OPSEC violation and the MAGA hats and banners, if I was the theater commander I'd be going through that entire chain of command like a dose of goddamn salts.

    But that's just me...