US Senator Lindsey Graham is seeking a way for the US to carry out its Syria policy effectively while speaking at the Munich Security Conference. “The bottom line is we can reduce our presence, but there needs to be some U.S. forces — a small percentage compared to what we have today, making sure our gains are maintained,” Breitbart reported he said in an interview Friday at the Munich Security Conference.
Graham said he was looking for “outcomes.” He spoke against isolationism and scorned those former US presidents who had retreated from global responsibility and entanglements. NATO is the “best investment” he said. Full video here:
A safe zone
“This stabilizing force, within a safe zone to prevent the reemergence of ISIS, would lessen the conflict between Turkey and people inside of Syria we actually work with, and make it almost impossible for Iran to be the biggest winner of any withdrawal,” he said. Airpower and technology would still be a key US component as the boots on the ground come home. “So they do more, we do less.” This is in line with an argument made at The Hill, describing US strategy as ‘small footprint, long arm.’
Getting European allies to do more
There is skepticism about whether European powers will step up.
Could the broader European role contain a US no fly zone?
An agreement at Geneva
Even as Turkey, Iran and Russia recently met at Sochi to discuss Syria, Graham indicates that there might be hope for an agreement in Geneva. He was quoted in the Breitbart interview ““My hope is once the caliphate’s destroyed, just within a day of it that we will not repeat the mistakes in Iraq…Then you hopefully go to Geneva and get an agreement for the Syrian people.”
Big US presence at MSC2019
50 members of Congress, the Vice President, acting Secretary of Defense, Iran envoy Brian Hook and many others attended from the US.
ISIS is defeated?
Graham says ISIS is defeated. “At this very hour, along the Euphrates River, the last mile of territory where the black flag of ISIS once flew is being captured,” VP Pence said.
According to reports “Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan met with allies active in the fight against ISIS on the sidelines of the Munich conference today…He said the US was making a tactical transition by pulling out troops from Syria but would continue to support fight there.” Shanahan: “We have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99% of the territory it once claimed as part of its so called caliphate.” Shanahan also said the US wants to support the fight against ISIS in regions other than Iraq and Syria. Shanahan highlighted “Afghanistan, Philippines and the Sahel region.”
Norwegian Foreign Minister: “Areas liberated from ISIS will see rise of (other) armed groups, because there’s no functioning state and no one providing basic services.
German Defense Minister: “”ISIS not completely defeated yet. Physically almost, but still lots of underground networks. We need to remain engaged, esp. reconstruction.”
But many European countries are concerned about unilateralism and Russia seems non-plussed about discussing the future of Syria.
But head of MI6 warns, “ISIS is a resilient organisation and it is reorganising, returning to its natural state as an asymmetric, transnational terrorist organisation”.
KRG holds high level meetings
Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) Chancellor Masrour Barzani met with James Jeffrey, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.