Brief #57—Foreign Policy

Over the past three months the United States has begun the process of ending its military involvement in both Afghanistan and Syria. In December, Trump announced that Isis had been defeated in Syria and the United States would begin sending troops home immediately. Some US officials did not entirely back up the President’s statements. John Bolton insisted that the US would remain “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias”. The Pentagon stated that they would “continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region”. Concurrently, the US has initiated talks with the Taliban to negotiate the withdrawal of at least half of the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The meetings, held last month in Qatar and last week in Moscow, have both failed to include the involvement of the Afghan government, which currently holds roughly half the country. Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan has stated that there is currently no order to withdraw from Afghanistan, but any such actions would be fully coordinated with our allies. Both of these decisions have provoked a firestorm of controversy among both allies and opponents of President Trump

Withdrawal from Syria


  • US involvement in Syria, which began with the arming of rebels in 2014 and grew into the military suppression of the development of Isis in the region has helped lead to the deaths of over 400,000 people and the creation of a humanitarian crisis
  • Continued US presence in the region has been a destabilizing force, preventing the state from providing security to its populace and creating a hotbed of extremist militant groups.
  • Trump’s intermittent proclivity for ending military interventions is somewhat of an anomaly in Washington, and despite his tactical clumsiness we may lose the chance for a withdrawal in the event of a change in political leadership in the near future.



  • The US has no plan to protect the Kurdish people living in Northern Syria. The Kurds were an invaluable ally in combating Isis on the frontlines, and Turkey, a US ally with a history of repressing the Kurds, has been attempting to coordinate with Russia in the interest of enforcing its dominion over the region.
  • The Pentagon estimated last month that 20,000-30,000 Isis forces remain in Syria, posing a significant predicament for the still somewhat weakened Syrian government.
  • President Trump has neglected to lead a withdrawal with any kind of political settlement with the many actors in the region, surrendering any kind of leverage the US may hold in leaving Syria in a less fractured state.


Withdrawal from Afghanistan


  • The United States has spent almost two decades and over a trillion dollars on the war, and has yet to defeat the Taliban.
  • US presence in the country may be a galvanizing force for the Taliban. The group’s extremism, alliance with Pakistan, and primary association with the Pashtun ethnic group is alienating to many Afghani when not juxtaposed with an occupying force. Much of the persistent resistance to the Afghan government is due to its perception as a US puppet.


  • Isis has been increasing activities in eastern Afghanistan and some fear that Isis fighters forced out of syria will join them
  • The US wants to pull out on the conditions that the Taliban will join the government and the country won’t be used by independent armed groups such as Al Qaeda and Isis. However, many doubt that the Taliban is even willing to commit to working directly with the government.
  • If the Taliban retakes power it may mean the return of harsh repression of Afghan women.

Resistance Resources

  • Veterans for Peace – An international organization made up of military veterans, military family members, and allies, working to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war. Read their statement on our withdrawal from Syria here.
  • Codepink – A women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley: Contact


Photo by unsplash-logoAhmed Abu Hameeda

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