Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the global coalition to defeat Islamic State (ISIS), has resigned in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. This Past Saturday, Fox News confirmed the information.
U.S. Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis resigned earlier this week also — partly in response to the president’s decision.
In order to respond reasonably in this type of dynamic situation, it's crucial to continue collecting informed views from multiple vantage points.
Supporters of President Trump’s surprise decision have valid points.
So do his opponents.
Many supporters of the decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria point to our war in Afghanistan as sufficient reason in and of itself.
America has spent more than 15 years, more than 1 trillion dollars, and more than 2,000 American lives fighting in Afghanistan. This, with no discernible signs of victory over radical Islam there. Though we have massively outspent and outgunned the Taliban, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford admits that the Taliban "are not losing" and that there is no "military solution" to ending the war in Afghanistan.
On this subject I must point out — based on my own experience as a former Islamic radical— that current U.S. military rules of engagement are counterproductive; they undermine our ability to achieve complete victory over the Taliban (or any other radical jihadist movements).
Thus, conforming our rules of engagement to reality is the first step to winning this war.
The president recently declared, "We have defeated ISIS."
This would be technically accurate if he were referring to the physical presence of ISIS as an Islamic State with full control over a certain geographical area.
Indeed, thanks to his aggressive approach against them since becoming commander in chief, ISIS no longer wields absolute control over any geographical area at all.
Yet, many ISIS jihadists have escaped to continue the fight in other places.
We certainly have not yet defeated the barbaric ideology they espouse.
This a fact that we cannot ignore.
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks resulted from the development of this hateful ideology in the Mideast, the cultivation and training of its radical adherents in Afghanistan, the plotting and planning of terrorist attacks in Hamburg, Germany, and the execution of these evil plans on American soil — in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
This reveals that the problem cannot be defeated in one single place on a map.
The problem is the ideology — wherever it may rear its ugly head.
Our security here in the U.S. depends on our ability to defeat the ideology. This will require proper international relations and collaboration with particular key players — globally.
Many of those opposing the president’s new Syria policy are not unreasonably worried about the security gap that will likely be created by the withdrawal of our troops.
Our withdrawal will certainly be seen as a sign of weakness by Islamic radicals.
And this will encourage and empower them.
They will see it as righteous vindication, and it will fortify their willingness and dedication to attacking us, our allies — and our interests.
Others are understandably worried that the withdrawal will regionally expand the power of the Russians, the Iranians, Hizb Allah, and Assad.
In addition, the Kurds will feel betrayed if we leave them without arranging protection against the inevitable negative backlash by ISIS and other forces in the region.
In fact, Kurdish fighters immediately discussed releasing nearly 3,200 ISIS prisoners after the announcement of the withdrawal.
The president’s decision can be even more fruitful if it's part of a strategic vision which includes pre-emptive solutions and tactics to deal with all possible consequences of the withdrawal.
In other words, the withdrawal will work best as a tactical step rather than a strategic goal.
It is imperative that we launch effective common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE), psychological operations and ideological warfare immediately before, during, and after the pulling out of troops.
By doing so, we could prevent the Islamic radicals from seeing our move as a sign of weakness. This would send them a message in the form of powerful psychological deterrents to prevent them from attempting to attack us again.
It would also diminish the number of individuals joining their groups.
Using a properly crafted psychological warfare strategy with effective CVE tactics could turn the physical withdrawal of troops into a genuine and lasting victory over ISIS by defeating them ideologically.
Remaining indefinitely in Syria or withdrawing our troops without synchronizing our withdrawal with effective CVE efforts could be equally perilous.
It is well to remember that our withdrawal from Iraq was quickly followed by the creation of ISIS. This was followed by a rapid increase in radicalism levels, partially because that withdrawal was not coupled with, nor followed by, effective psychological and ideological operations.
In such a complex situation, it's fair to say that perhaps President Trump is withdrawing our troops from Syria because he understands that the war against radical Islam is not geographic. It is ideological.
Finally, President Trump’s decision to withdraw the troops from Syria may also allow more money to be directed to develop better technology for the U.S. military, so that the U.S. continues to be technologically ahead of other nations — especially Russia and China.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.
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