National Security Advisor John Bolton did not want it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not want it. But President Donald Trump made it, and he finally made it: the official start of the US withdrawal from Syria.
The government has been fighting openly for weeks to see if – and if – all 2,000 US forces are to be returned from Syria to Trump December announcement that he wished her to return quickly.
This political struggle, traditionally initially privately erased before any decision is announced to the public, has revealed deep rifts between Trump and his senior national security officials over America's involvement in the Middle East and the fight against ISIS.
] This week, Bolton and Pompeo flew into the area to reassure their allies that Trump's wish would not come true so soon.
And on Thursday, Pompeo made a speech in Cairo (Egypt) stating, "When America withdraws, chaos often ensues," and praises, "America will not retreat until the terror battle is over."
That now it seems a bit wrong – because on Friday morning Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the US-led ISIS repressive coalition, told reporters, "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has begun. It looks like only equipment – but not troops – are on their way out of the country according to various reports.
However, the US military has officially begun its mission in Syria. This means that even after a week full of assurances that America could reconsider a complete withdrawal, the process has been pushed and this process has begun.
"This is a government in disarray", Richard Haass president of the think tank of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was tweeted on Friday in response to the news.
"We do not take orders from Bolton"
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that defense officials continue to bring their plans to bring US troops to the presidential directives, regardless of what Bolton or Pompeo had said in the last few days.
"Nothing has changed," one official told Nancy Youssef and Dion Nissenbaum. "We do not take orders from Bolton."
The report also noted that there are troops in Kuwait and western Iraq willing to help their colleagues in Syria, as well as a ship with marines and planes to the region to protect troops as they retreat. That would actually increase the number of troops in the region to support the withdrawal process.
There is no hard time for the withdrawal, of which we know, the government says now, although in the past it postponed the timeline from 30 days to four months. So the whole process could take weeks or months.
However, it seems pretty clear that a drawdown is in progress. The British Syrian Human Rights Observatory, which tracks local conditions in Syria, reported that the US military had begun transporting equipment – about 10 armored vehicles and machinery – from a base in northeastern Syria.
And a representative of the Trump administration told CNN on Friday that "some cargo has already left Syria." Another official added that the Pentagon could occasionally provide updates on the retreat so that the public – and presumably the president – can see the military follow the orders.
Pompeo and Bolton may not agree with these orders On this day, Trump is the Commander-in-Chief, and only his orders are significant.