Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - Page 5 News List

US envoy to anti-IS coalition resigns

‘SHOCK’:Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria confused the US’ coalition partners, with no plan in place or even thought as to consequences, Brett McGurk said


Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group, has resigned in protest over US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, joining US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security figures.

McGurk had only 11 days ago said it would be “reckless” to consider the Islamic State defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring US forces home.

He decided to speed up his original plan to leave his post in the middle of February.

“The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy,” he said in an e-mail to his staff viewed by reporters. “It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered with no plan in place or even considered thought as to consequences.”

Appointed to the post by former US president Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump, McGurk said in his resignation letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the militants were on the run, but not yet defeated, and that the premature pullout of US forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to the IS.

Trump played down the development, tweeting on Saturday night that “I do not know” the envoy and it is a “nothing event.”

He said McGurk planned to leave soon anyway and added: “Grandstander?”

Shortly after news of McGurk’s resignation broke, Trump again defended his decision to pull all of the about 2,000 US troops from Syria in the coming weeks.

“We were originally going to be there for three months, and that was seven years ago — we never left,” Trump tweeted. “When I became President, ISIS was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”

Although the civil war in Syria has gone on since 2011, the US did not begin launching airstrikes against the IS until September 2014, and US troops did not go into Syria until 2015.

McGurk, whose resignation is effective on Monday next week, was planning to leave the job in the middle of February after a US-hosted meeting of foreign ministers from the coalition countries, but he felt he could continue no longer after Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and Mattis’ resignation.

In his e-mail to his staff, McGurk said: “I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout, but — as many of you heard in my many meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity at the same time.”

Trump’s declaration of a victory over the IS has been roundly contradicted by his own experts’ assessments and his decision to pull troops out was widely denounced by members of the US Congress, who called his action rash.

Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in the US administration, on Thursday announced that he would leave by the end of February.

He told Trump in a letter that he was departing because “you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”

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