Donald Trump’s outbursts this week about getting U.S. troops out of Syria have done substantial damage to Washington’s influence over its crucial Syrian ally, knowledgeable current and former senior administration officials and service members tell The Daily Beast. That influence, they believe, is America’s most important asset as it navigates one of the world’s most chaotic and transactional battlefields.
“Everyone is tracking U.S. politics, particularly Trump, way better than we think,” a member of the American special-operations community told The Daily Beast.
“It’s hard when you make assurances, your chain of command makes assurances, and then all of a sudden the president comes off the top rope and changes things.”
Although Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats assured reporters that a “decision” was reached at a critical Tuesday meeting of the National Security Council on the future course of the U.S. in Syria, officials tell The Daily Beast that much remains unresolved and in flux. That irresolution lingers even after Trump’s top advisers issued a public reminder that the war against the so-called Islamic State, upon which all U.S. policy in Syria is predicated, remains unfinished. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—not Trump himself—issued a statement later that morning that walked back any talk of withdrawal, but also clearly hinted at Trump’s impatience.
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