The U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS has resigned in protest at President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.
Brett McGurk was appointed by Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump. He joins Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in quitting the Trump administration over the pullout of the remaining 2,000 American troops.
McGurk’s resignation takes effect on Dec. 31. Less than two weeks ago he said: “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’.”
A week before that, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. had a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to prevent a resurgence of ISIS.
In his letter of resignation to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, McGurk said the militants were on the run but not yet defeated, and that the premature withdrawal of American forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to ISIS in the first place.
He said there had been gains in accelerating the campaign against ISIS, but the work was not yet done.
After McGurk’s resignation, Trump continued to defend his decision to withdraw U.S. troops. “We were originally going to be there for three months, and that was seven years ago — we never left,” he said on social media. “When I became President, Daesh was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”
McGurk, 45, is a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. During the negotiations by the Obama administration for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there.
McGurk was a senior official covering Iraq and Afghanistan during President George W. Bush’s administration, and was briefly considered for the post of ambassador to Iraq.
A former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, he worked as a lawyer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and joined Bush’s National Security Council staff. In 2007 and 2008, he was the lead U.S. negotiator on security agreements with Iraq.
He will be replaced as coalition envoy by his deputy, retired Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff. Jim Jeffrey, the veteran diplomat appointed special representative for Syria engagement in August, is expected to stay in his position.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
Copyright: Arab News © 2021 All rights reserved.