04:34 GMT26 September 2020
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    US President Donald Trump’s Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigned from his post on Thursday. In his letter of resignation, he explained that he had made this decision due to his diverging views with the president. The news comes one day after Trump announced a military withdrawal from Syria.

    Sputnik has discussed this with Dr Max Abrahms, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Northeastern University and the author of "Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History".

    Sputnik: US Withdrawal Blindsides Pentagon and State Department?

    Max Abrahms: Sure, I mean these are major decisions. I think that Trump's declaration that the US will be leaving Syria really blindsided his foreign policy team, even his generals were caught off guard. Members of his administration have been going to think tanks earlier this week saying that the US was going to be staying for a long time. So in that sense, the declaration is a surprise.

    On the other hand, Trump campaigned on focusing in Syria squarely on Islamic State [Daesh*]. Trump is not known for being a very deep geopolitical strategic thinker and to a large extent this mission of attriting Islamic State has been enormously successful, and so in the way, it makes perfect sense that the US would withdraw.

    READ MORE: Blinded by Anti-Trumpism

    Sputnik: What US Withdrawal Means for Daesh?

    Max Abrahms: Now a big question that people are debating is whether the US withdrawal will facilitate an ISIS 2.0. And in my book "Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History" what I do is I looked at hundreds of militant groups all over the world to determine which ones will succeed and which ones will fail. And in general, I find that the Islamic State is not a very strategic group.

    It doesn't act in a manner that will be successful because the Islamic State tends to be too brutal. It uses too much carnage and this ends up eroding the support of the local population, dissuades other rebel groups from working with Islamic State. It makes it harder for the international community to support Islamic State.

    Whereas slightly more moderate groups that don't engage in so much carnage against civilians and brag about it over social media tend to have way more support and that's why they're the ones that tend to win. And so I'm not of the opinion that Islamic State will be very successful in reconstituting yourself because ultimately you need friends to prevail and Islamic State simply doesn't have them.

    READ MORE: Ex-CIA Officer: Mattis Resignation Increases Info War to Reverse US' Syria Exit

    Sputnik: What US Withdrawal Means for Hezbollah & Israel?

    Max Abrahms: There will be other implications as well beyond ISIS in Syria. I suspect that the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah will heat up. To an extent, the US presence in Syria was a deterrent I think on both Iran and Hezbollah and now Israel is going to rely on itself to attrit Hezbollah. So I expect to see more Israel Defence Forces sorties, the Israeli Air Force going into Syria taking out Iranian assets especially those related to Hezbollah.

    Sputnik: What US Withdrawal Means for Their Kurdish Allies?

    Max Abrahms: Another important geopolitical implication of all of this is that Turkey finally is going to be able to commit the war that it really has wanted all along, and that's against the Kurds by going east of the Euphrates. There has been a recent announcement by Erdogan that the war will not start immediately maybe in a month or so.

    But I expect the Turkish onslaught against the Kurds, the YPG, the Syrian Democratic Forces, whatever you want to call them, is going to be quite intense and that unfortunately could have a negative impact for fighting Islamic State because the Kurds have been tremendous warriors since Kobani against ISIS.

    READ MORE: Erdogan Phone Call on Syria Triggered Mattis's Resignation — Reports

    Sputnik: Reports of US Withdrawal from Afghanistan?

    Max Abrahms: In terms of Afghanistan, I believe that we will also be seeing a US withdrawal from there and again this is consistent with Trump's campaign pledge, which has always been that he has opposed nation-building. Trump seems to be in favour of counterterrorism but not reconstituting and remaking foreign land, especially when the governments are weak.

    I've been a long time advocate of the US withdrawing from Afghanistan. That campaign is not improving. The Taliban is as strong as ever. The government doesn't have the support of the population and I think that it's been a big distraction for the US to try to wait for there to be some sort of a political resolution between the Afghan government and the Taliban; because I don't foresee that sort of a resolution happening.

    Even in the negotiations at the bargaining table, you won't see the Taliban and members of the Afghan government. They're kept separate. And so the US has basically been putting off its withdrawal waiting for a certain level of calm in Afghanistan and that's just not going to happen.

    After 17 years I think that it's more than time for the United States to seriously draw down its troops and really just to focus on the international terrorism threat rather than insurgencies, which are primarily local in nature. The Taliban is made up of a couple thousand of fighters from other areas. There are some foreign fighters, but in general, this is a nationalist group.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Max Abrahms and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

    * Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    troop withdrawal, US troop withdrawal, Daesh, Donald Trump, Afghanistan, Syria, United States
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