HomeGlobal NewsUS envoy Brett McGurk quits over Trump Syria pullout – BBC News
December 22, 2018
US envoy Brett McGurk quits over Trump Syria pullout – BBC News
A top US official in the fight against the Islamic State group has quit over President Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria, reports say.
Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, brought his departure forward from February.
Before Mr Trump’s announcement he had insisted that the US would continue working against IS in Syria.
It follows the resignation of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday.
Gen Mattis had also opposed withdrawing troops from Syria as well as reducing the US presence in Afghanistan.
Mr McGurk is an experienced diplomat who was appointed to his current role in 2015 under the Obama administration.
In early December he told reporters: “We want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas.”
He went on to say: “It would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”
In an email to staff quoted by the New York Times, he said Mr Trump’s decision to pull out troops “came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy”. It “left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered”, he said.
US ground troops first became involved in Syria in Autumn 2015 when then President Barack Obama sent in a small number of special forces to train and advise local Kurdish fighters who were fighting IS.
The US did this reluctantly after several attempts at arming anti-IS groups had descended into chaos.
Over the intervening years the numbers of US troops in Syria increased, standing today at some 2,000, though some estimates place the number perhaps even higher.
A network of bases and airstrips has been established in an arc across the north-eastern part of the country.
The US has also been part of an international coalition conducting air strikes against IS and other militants.