Ex-Envoy McGurk Raises Alarm over Lack of Withdrawal Plan from Syria

‘The president has made that clear—we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely…’

(AFP; additional reporting by Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Brett McGurk, formerly America’s envoy to the U.S.-led global coalition against the Islamic State group (ISIS), said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to U.S. forces.

McGurk, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis, resigned in protest following President Donald Trump’s unexpected announcement in December of plans to withdraw an estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

One of the most prominent holdovers from the Obama administration, McGurk told CBS’s “Face the Nation” over the weekend that based on the current information he was privy to, no clear exit strategy appeared to be in place.

“Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force… It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for ISIS.”


The withdrawal announcement ironically triggered a panic among many global leaders who had long advocated for a reduction in U.S. “imperialism,” along with Washington Democrats and some in Trump’s own Republican party.

Trump later clarified that he does not have a specific time frame but that the departure of troops would be contingent upon the eradication of ISIS.

Although senior officials have since given contradictory statements about U.S. intentions, the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal. How long it would take remained uncertain.

“The president has made that clear—we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”

Most importantly, said McGurk, the U.S. cannot expect “a partner” such as Turkey to take the place of the United States.

“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”

Turkey, under current authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has courted stronger ties with U.S. adversaries while facing the pressure of sanctions and stronger trade tariffs.

The NATO-ally supports the U.S. withdrawal, but many believe Turkey’s true intention is to clamp down on U.S.-backed Kurdish freedom fighters in the region who have opposed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad .

McGurk has previously warned that the U.S. pullout would shore up the despotic Assad’s grip over the region and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.

McGurk’s media appearance came a few days after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit U.S. troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Islamic State group.

Trump honored the four fallen soldiers on Saturday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.