Citing his anger at the decision to withdraw US forces from Syria this week, US Special Envoy to the ISIS War Brett McGurk has announced his resignation. He had reportedly told coworkers he’d intended to retire in February.
This follows Defense Secretary James Mattis also resigning over the Syria pullout. Mattis offered very subtle criticism in his resignation letter, while McGurk was a lot more vehement, insisting there was no plan in place, and the administration had no thought of what the consequences would be.
McGurk was intended to coordinate with the 79 countries involved in the US-led coalition against ISIS. It is not clear who his replacement will be, but with the administration arguing ISIS is defeated, there may be a low priority for this position.
After Mattis, and now McGurk, there is speculation that others may be about to resign in the coming days, also for being at odds with Trump’s order to leave Syria. In the Pentagon, there is believed to be broad unity toward keeping the war going, as evidenced by the number of Pentagon officials who spent the last two years talking up long-term presence there.
If there is a large exodus, this might also be an opportunity to purge the pro-war leadership that has been cultivated over the past generation, who saw their careers grow as US wars took on more aggressive forms. Though Trump still would have to find alternative candidates, and find them palatable to his own worldview, this may in retrospect prove to be a major chance to split up bureaucrats’ policy views from the homogeneity of recent history to view war-making as something to weigh seriously, and not just rubber stamp.