While the 2016 presidential campaign didn’t focus all that heavily on foreign policy, President-elect Donald Trump made it pretty clear during the debates he wasn’t enamored of the US strategy in Syria, and within days of the vote was already very public in his intention to end a significant aspect of US involvement.
Trump revealed in an interview on Friday that he fully expects to end the US aid to “moderate” rebels in Syria, saying that the US “have no idea who these people are,” and insisting that the focus of the war should be on ISIS, not on starting a fight with Syria and Russia.
The debate between the war on ISIS and the war on Assad is one that’s been raging in the Obama Administration for years, with the CIA and State Department often seeking to move away from the ISIS conflict and toward the war of regime change. The Pentagon was seen leaning the other way, toward fighting ISIS, and Trump is also clearly on that side.
Syria’s state media is even going so far as to say that they expect Trump will try to come to some sort of “understanding” with Russia that would see the US entirely move out of the rebellion business and toward targeting ISIS, even if it is to the benefit of Assad.
While the exact details aren’t clear, this would be a massive shift in US foreign policy toward Syria, as while publicly the US has sometimes suggested their focus is wholly on ISIS, privately officials have conceded for years that the US goal in Syria has been a stalemate, with the hope of the country becoming such a wreck that they can impose terms to resolve the situation.
The CIA made it very clear at times that their goal was to keep the rebellion going, but not to make them so strong they might win the war. Trump appears averse enough to this whole messy business that he’s seeking to shift US policy, which means the US roadblock to any resolution of the war might disappear.