ISIS coalition chief envoy will leave by month's end; refuses to carry out troop pullback order

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ISIS coalition chief envoy will leave by month's end; refuses to carry out troop pullback order

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 22, 2018 3:11 pm

NYT — Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, has accelerated his resignation, telling colleagues this weekend that he could not carry out President Trump’s newly declared policy of withdrawing the 2,000 troops stationed in Syria.

Mr. McGurk, a seasoned diplomat considered by many to be the glue holding together the sprawling international coalition fighting the terrorist group, was supposed to retire in February. But according to an email he sent to his staff, he decided to move forward his departure to Dec. 31 after Mr. Trump did not heed his own commanders and blindsided America’s allies in the region by abruptly ordering the troop withdrawal.

His decision follows close on the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, whose own resignation letter has been seen as a rebuke of the president’s actions in the region.
“The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us,” Mr. McGurk said in the email to his colleagues. “It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.”

“I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout but — as many of you heard in my meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity,” he said.

With more than a decade of experience in Iraq spanning three administrations, Mr. McGurk helped stitch together the 79-member coalition led by the United States to fight the Islamic State. The coalition oversaw the battle to take back territory from the terrorist group.

In a shift from the way the insurgency had been fought during the Bush administration, one of the Obama administration’s core doctrines was that America’s allies in the region needed to take the lead in recapturing territory from the terrorist group, with American forces providing air support and limited logistical assistance.

This meant that the ground war to take back key cities captured by Islamic State, like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, took years to mount. It came down to Mr. McGurk to negotiate alliances and broker military aid to the mosaic of armed groups and governments vying for control of the region.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump did not directly address Mr. McGurk’s resignation but took credit for defeating the Islamic State. “When I became President, ISIS was going wild,” he wrote. “Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”
At its height, the Islamic State controlled an area the size of Britain with a population estimated at 12 million people. Under Mr. McGurk’s guidance, the coalition succeeded in retaking roughly half of the territory under the group’s self-declared caliphate by the time Mr. Trump took office in early 2017.

By the end of 2018, the Islamic State had lost all but 1 percent of the land it once held in Iraq and Syria, leading the White House to proclaim that the group had been defeated even though its strength is still estimated at 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

“Brett is one of our longest serving and most effective officials dealing with the region,” said Gen. John Allen, McGurk’s predecessor.

“His departure, following that of Jim Mattis and others, will leave us less safe at a moment when this president seems unwilling to take, or unable to understand, the ‘best advice’ of his leaders,” he said. “Day by day, decision by decision, this administration is leaving America and Americans less safe and more vulnerable.”

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