The American President's final decision on the issue has come as a surprise for the country's establishment. Even though the first statement on the "full" and "rapid" US withdrawal from Syria came back in April this year. Donald Trump reasoned his decision by the fact that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and the American troops' mission had been completed.
According to the Pentagon, the number of American personnel in Syria stands at about 2,500, with more than 1,500 of them stationed at nine permanent military camps in the country's North-East fulfilling a supply and training mission for the Western coalition's Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). About a hundred instructors and advisers are part of the SDF units that are fighting against the Islamic state (ISIS, an international terrorist group prohibited in Russia) in the north-eastern part of the Deir ez-Zor province.
The rest of American troops are stationed near the village of At Tanf where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq meet. The 2,500-square-kilometer space hosts a support point for American troops in Syria, a field military training center for militants and a Syrian refugee camp for about 60 thousand people. The American command has declared the airspace over this territory a no-fly zone.
In general, the American elite perceived their president's decision critically. Several democratic senators accused Trump pretty much of treason, and US Defense Minister James Mattis submitted resignation. The closest American NATO allies, e. g. Britain, Germany and France, also expressed disappointment over such a political action, referring to the persisting threat of the Islamic State's return to Syria.
Trump's military-political "somersault" can be certainly regarded as a manifestation of voluntarism. But the internal political struggle at the highest levels of the US government prompts him to use highly unusual tricks: the Western coalition was created under the previous president, and before Trump took office, its activities were largely focused on creating conditions to overthrow power in Syria rather than on fighting terrorism. Deployment and dynamic actions of the Russian military personnel in the country turned the tide to transform the United States into uninvited guests.
Trump's closest advisors are apparently wise and able to look ahead: over the 17 years of its military presence in Afghanistan, the US has lost several thousand troops. And the number of private military campaign casualties has never been estimated at all. The American President can use his decision on Syria as a strong move in the confrontation with his opponents: he won't tolerate a repetition of the 1980s Lebanon situation, when over 250 American soldiers were killed by Islamic sabotage and reconnaissance groups. Neither will he tolerate a second Afghanistan, where America has been fruitlessly fighting for more than 17 years.
Trump is a businessman and is good at watching his money. Syria absorbed quite a lot. Staying there means to annually raise expenses, deliberately luring the United States into a pointless waste of money.
It is particularly remarkable that the decision on the upcoming troops withdrawal followed Trump's telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara set a course for a large-scale military operation against the Syrian Kurds – the current US coalition ally – in the nearest future. And, judging by its intensive preparations, it is determined to launch the mission in late winter-early spring 2019 in the American zone of influence between the left bank of the Euphrates River and the Syrian-Iraqi border. Fearing an ultimate cooling of relations with Ankara, Washington decided to throw the Kurds under the bus. Especially since the outcome of a new military conflict in Syria is unknown for all the parties involved...
Erdogan seems to have convinced Trump not to obstruct Turkey's plans to secure its southern borders. Washington will benefit from withdrawing and leaving behind a formidable problem in Syria. America's representative in the Western coalition said that the extraction of US troops will take some 60-90 days. The Turkish armed forces command needs just as much to form an offensive unit. US representative Sean Ryan explicitly said that the Pentagon will closely monitor the situation in Syria, continue helping its allies and quickly bring its forces to Syria if necessary. In neighboring Iraq, several military bases host 5,200 American troops and heavy weapons.