Several hundred French and British troops won't be enough to cover the loss of soldiers as a part of a planned US withdrawal.
NEW YORK – France and the U.K. are reportedly sending several hundred troops to Syria to make up for an anticipated U.S. pull-back from the coalition fight against the Islamic State.
Foreign Policy reported Tuesday that the two American allies will boost their troop presence in Syria by 10 to 15 percent. Combined, that could see up to 600 French and British troops sent to northeastern Syria, where the mission of destroying the ISIS caliphate appears increasingly ill-defined.
“That mission has gotten a little muddier.”
Scott R. Anderson is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former legal adviser for Middle East policy at the State Department.
“We heard the Trump Administration announcing before the withdrawal that they wanted to keep a military presence in Syria in part to keep an eye on the Iranians or to make sure that the Iranians don’t build up too strong a military presence along the border with Israel. We’ve also heard about efforts to keep the U.S. military presence there to keep pressure on the Assad regime.”
Considering that France and the U.K. were quick to commit troops to the U.S.-led battle to defeat ISIS, both were shocked last year when President Trump abruptly announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria.
“This is part of what made President Trump’s decision to announce a withdrawal from Syria so striking. Because it appears to have been done with very little advanced coordination with these allies, with very little thought to their own security posture, to their own needs, and with very little consideration to how they would respond.”
Now that they have responded, Anderson says it’s hard to tell whether France and Britain cowed to Trump’s burden-sharing demands directed at U.S. allies, or if they’re simply protecting their own troops who could be increasingly at risk.
Either way, one thing is clear: More coalition soldiers are leaving the anti-ISIS battle than are being deployment. Pair that with a more daunting mission facing those troops, and who knows what’s in store for the deserts that not long ago gave rise to the world’s foremost terror threat.