U.S. Withdrawal From Syrian Warfare: Tactic And Civilian Casualty

As 2019 shifts into gear, a significant shift in Syrian warfare politics emerges, with the Trump administration actualizing the process of ‘withdrawing 2,000 troops from Syria as announced,’ near the close of 2018. Whilst the precise machinations of the move is covert and arguably lacking in transparency as to how it shall be implemented, it is clear that priority has first been accorded to protecting military personnel. Al Jazeera online, in reporting the highly controversial decision, notes the reasoning of Colonel Sean Ryan who asserted that ‘out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.’

High level reactions to the decision have been met with a mixture of criticism, praise and concern. Trump’s decision has been premised on his belief that ‘ISIS has been defeated in Syria,’ the logic of which has been subject to strong rejection. Those opining in opposition are critical of both the validity of reason and the veracity of motivation. Notable here is ‘Britain’s strong disagreement [which rejects] Trump’s claim that ISIL has indeed been defeated.’ Whereas, Israel abstention is based on ‘the Prime Minister’s [judgement-call] that Israel would study the decision and ensure its own security.’ Comparatively, it is human emotion that appears to drive praise. Pertinent here, are the remarks of ‘Republican Senator Rand Paul who, in backing Trump’s decision, appears to have been strongly informed by nationalist sentimentality. It was thus asserted that ‘for the first time in my lifetime, we have a President with the courage to declare victory and bring out troops home.’

Post-announcement, the U.S. executed ‘Operation Roundup’ which specifically targeting the region of the Euphrates River Valley, culminated in the targeting and destruction of civilian facilities. As such, Al Jazeera online in particular calls into question the veracity of Trump’s proclamation regarding ‘the defeat of ISIS.’ It has been reported that ‘Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley is the last remaining IS stronghold.’ The tactic deployed in Operation Roundup appeared not to differentiate between averting harm to civil society and the ultimate aim of defeating enemy forces. Al Jazeera online thus reports that ‘In addition to military targets, Operation Roundup bombed civilian areas, such as a hospital.’ The illegality of the act as within the parameters of international law has been strongly criticized by ‘Kevin Jon Heller, an international law scholar [who in simple terms outlines that] the U.S. could not attack the hospital simply because it believed some ISIS fighters were there.’ Further, Heller has criticized the blind-sightedness of U.S. tactic as the academic has asserted that ‘the bombing of a hospital in a combat zone without considering civilian causalities or issuing warning is a fundamental violation of international humanitarian law.’

While the notoriety of the Euphrates River Valley region in supposedly harbouring ISIL is highly alarming, it is also clear that such tactics are not a positive step towards peace. It is most important to be cognizant of protecting innocent lives amidst warfare, as opposed to attempting to justify actions that cannot be not justification. On the same note, the lives of American soldiers are also precious and important. However, it appears fair to argue that following the withdrawal announcement, the U.S. military action should have moved towards peacefulness as opposed to active combat. The engagement and execution of Operation Roundup provides a strong springboard to question the motivations underscoring U.S. tactic. As posited by Al Jazeera online, ‘The increased intensity of the bombings, however, belie claims by Trump and others that ISIL has been defeated, or that the U.S. war in Syria, which has largely been carried out over the skies is over.’

Nat Kumar