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Chesney Discusses Potential Syrian Withdrawal Effects

Oct 15, 2019 |

In his recent post for Lawfare, Strauss Center Director and James Baker Professor in Law, Bobby Chesney, provides a critical response to the White House’s October 6th, 2019 statement announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Northern Syria. Chesney first highlights some notable omissions from the White House statement—namely, the role of Kurdish coalition partners in the defeat of the Islamic State Caliphate in Northern Syria, and the central role of the Kurds in the detaining of captured Islamic State Fighters. He notes that the arrangement whereby the Kurds managed the detainment of the Islamic State Fighters was believed by many to not be viable in the long term, as Chesney had asserted in a separate August 2018 Lawfare post.

Chesney then notes three primary errors presented in the White House statement. First, it is the Kurdish forces, not the United States, that presently hold the detainees. Second, the White House statement seems to imply there is hope for European partners repatriating the detained Islamic State Fighters, which—while unlikely—would not even be a sufficient solution, as the majority of detainees are of Iraqi and Syrian descent. Finally, the claim that Turkey would now assume responsibility for the Islamic State Fighters is baseless. This claim also serves as an implicit acknowledgement by the White House that the U.S. withdrawal from Northern Syria means the end of Kurdish oversight of Islamic State detainees.

Chesney concludes by noting that while there are several ways the situation in Northern Syria could develop, it is most likely that the Islamic State will come out as the primary beneficiary. Read the full post here.

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