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US envoy against IS resigns after Trump Syria decision

December 22, 2018

Brett McGurk had been appointed by Obama in 2015 and was a key player in Washington's Syria policy. He said he could no longer do his job after Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw US troops.

Brett McGurk
Image: picture-alliance/AA/Y. Ozturk

Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition fighting "Islamic State," (IS) has resigned, the State Department said on Saturday, in the wake of President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from the fight against IS.

McGurk's resignation on Friday, which is effective December 31, came just after that of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had cited key disagreements with the president over strategy, including the fight against IS terrorists in Syria.

Just last week, McGurk, who was appointed by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, had recently said that "nobody is declaring a mission accomplished" in the battle against IS.

"It would be reckless if we were just to say, 'Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now,'" McGurk, 45, had told the press earlier this month. "I think anyone who's looked at a conflict like this would agree with that."

Withdrawal stuns allies

Despite this, Trump surprised both allies abroad and within his own government by announcing on Wednesday that he felt the US had defeated IS in Syria, and that he was pulling the remaining 2,000 US soldiers in Syria, a move immediately welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Military officials have warned that there is a difference between pushing IS from its strongholds and defeating it, and that pulling out now could allow them to regain strength.

McGurk was appointed in 2015 and has been instrumental in shaping US policy in northern Syria. He had been due to hold this post until February 2019, but said he could no longer do his job in light of Trump's decision.

es/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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