16 OCTOBER 2019 (SOURCE: INDEPENDENT) -Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria has started to change the balance of power in the war-torn country where regional and international powers have long been involved in a complex situation. Russian troops have now moved into northern Syria to fill the security vacuum left by the United States, and Syrian government forces are taking over areas previously controlled by US-backed Kurdish fighters.

The majority of Washington’s foreign policy elite see the evolving situation as a big win for the Russian and Syrian governments, and a loss for the United States. However, experts argue that there has been no good reason for the United States to remain in Syria and the withdrawal should have eventually happened.

Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are seen as winners in northern Syria, but that was expected even before the Turkish incursion, says Robert Rabil, professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University.

“Our presence was too small and our policy has been incoherent in the Middle East in general, and Syria in particular,” he told The Independent. Professor Rabil suggested that everyone start looking at the Syrian regime as the Putin-Asad regime now, adding that “Damascus is Putin’s satellite capital”. The United States cannot reverse what has happened but it is essential for the Americans to speak with both Putin and Erdogan to reach some agreement over Kurds, refugees and Salafi-jihadis, Rabil says.

The White House has announced that President Trump was sending Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O’Brien to Ankara as soon as possible to begin negotiations over a stop to the fighting.

There have also been concerns that after the US withdrawal, Syrian forces advancing into Kurdish areas would clash with Turkish forces. That would be prevented if Putin and Erdogan reach an agreement for Turkey to control some border areas deemed essential to its security, the rest be taken over by Syrian government forces, and Russian forces in the middle of the two.

Experts who long believed that the United States should get out of Syria blame Trump not for withdrawing but for failing to manage a competent plan. Ben Friedman, policy director at Defense Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, calls it the right policy handled with stunning incompetence.

“The deal now struck between the Kurds and the Syrian government was available eight months ago, when it could have happened without a Turkish invasion.” Friedman said that would probably have given the Syrian Kurds safety from Turkey, while also keeping Isis down and facilitating a US withdrawal. “I still support withdrawal, but regret that US policy made an ugly situation worse in the way we left,” he added.

Staying in Syria has proven to be a risky policy without much clear end goal for the United States under both Trump and Obama administrations. Barack Obama limited efforts to overthrow Assad but still supported Syrian rebels who did not win. The bipartisan consensus in Washington has long been that the US should help oust Assad while fighting Isis. But overthrowing Assad has proved to be unlikely and the American public has lost track of the complexities of the situation on the ground.

Now it looks like the president has settled for destroying the Isis caliphate and getting American troops out of harm’s way. There is a general understanding that the US public will not support staying in Syria indefinitely, especially if service members were going to be killed or injured. Trump’s strategy of getting out of the endless war in Syria does not seem to be well-thought and thoroughly-planned, but it may eventually open the door to some stability in the long run.