Trump's Syria Rhetoric Will 'Haunt' Future U.S. Foreign Policy, Retired Admiral Says

A former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO has added his voice to the chorus of criticism of President Donald Trump's foreign policy, suggesting the commander in chief's Syria decision would haunt the U.S. and its allies for years to come.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis was the alliance commander from 2009 to 2013. He wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria had only benefited America's rivals and will be a long-term stain on the U.S.' global reputation.

Trump announced Wednesday he was lifting the sanctions imposed on Turkey following its invasion of the Kurdish-held part of Syria—also known as Rojava—which began earlier this month.

The operation was launched just after Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. forces from the area, which had been deployed to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the campaign against ISIS.

Trump claimed credit for the ceasefire—which is not being fully observed—declaring: "This was an outcome created by us, the United States and nobody else." Turkey agreed to a temporary U.S.-brokered ceasefire last week, but warned it would resume operations if the Kurds did not accede to its demands.

With U.S. troops speeding out of the country, it was Turkey and Russia that ultimately hammered out what appears to be the endgame of the eight-year war. President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Sochi on Tuesday to decide what post-war Syria will look like.

Stavridis argued that the "winners" of the ceasefire "are Assad, Putin, Erdogan, and ISIS." On the other hand, "the Kurds, U.S. credibility as an ally, Israel, and Arab allies" have all been weakened, he added.

Russian and Syrian regime forces have agreed to facilitate the retreat of SDF troops from the 18-mile deep border buffer zone demanded by Turkey, after which Russian and Turkish patrols will monitor the area.

Abandoned by the U.S., the SDF were forced to turn to the Syrian regime for help, and submit to President Bashar al-Assad. Assad and the Russians have extended control over much of the east of the country and absorbed one of the biggest obstacles to national reunification.

Meanwhile, Turkey has secured the "safe zone" it wanted and ensured that the nascent Kurdish statelet has been smothered. And in the chaos, "dozens" of Islamic State militants—formerly detained by the SDF—have escaped.

While claiming responsibility for the permanent ceasefire, Trump also cast doubt on the meaning of "permanent" in "that part of the world." He claimed: "We've saved the lives of many, many Kurds," and added that the U.S. would now "let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand."

Stavridis suggested that Trump's comments "will haunt U.S. foreign policy as others around globe doubt our reliability under stress."

Donald Trump, Syria, ceasefire, Turkey, Russia, ISIS
President Donald Trump is flanked by Vice President Mike Pence while making statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House, on October 23, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/Getty