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Trump fights opponents only in business or on presidential campaign trails

Aug 14,2019 - Last updated at Aug 14,2019

Donald Trump is neither an armchair warrior, nor a competent battlefield commander-in-chief. Trump dodged military service in the Vietnam war just as his grandfather Friedrich Trump did when he fled Bavaria's army for New York at the end of the 19th century. Donald Trump fights opponents only in business or on presidential campaign trails.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Since he is determined to honour pledges to his "base" adoring supporters, he does not consider or care about the consequences of his actions. Exiting the wars in Syria and Afghanistan is, as Trump's detractors say, "all about him", meaning how it impacts his poll ratings.

This holds true also for his domestic policies on Hispanic immigration, mass shootings and gun control of the out-of-control US gun scene. He is hard-headed and cold-hearted when ordering immigration officers to detain "undocumented", or illegal, immigrants who may have been living in the US for decades and have established families there.

Last week, he flew on Air Force One to Dayton in the mid-west state of Ohio and El Paso in southwest Texas to condole with survivors and families of the 31 people killed during the latest multiple shootings. They were carried out by men wielding battlefield weapons they should not have been permitted to buy and own. He claims he had been warmly received in Dayton and El Paso, although he met only officials and a few hospitalised victims and family members and did not show himself to the public.

Trump's remedy for the widespread misuse of AK-15 assault rifles and similar arms may be to increase background checks on potential purchasers and "red flag" disturbed individuals to prevent them from obtaining such weaponry. He flatly refuses to ask fellow Republicans in the legislature to reimpose the limited, decade-long ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, which expired in 2004.

Trump's external policies are dominated by his eagerness to "cut and run" from wars he did not start and has no intention of fighting. The Afghan war was launched by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush in response to the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, carried out by Al Qaeda, which was then, as now, based in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US initially defeated the Taliban but the Taliban revived and the longest ever fought by the US is stalemated. Trump is determined to bring, at least, some of the "boys" home before next year's presidential election.

The US and the Taliban have been talking for nearly a year and are said to be close to concluding a deal. Due to Trump's withdrawal pledge, the Taliban has the advantage. It refuses to negotiate with the government, which it regards as a US puppet, until US-led foreign forces announce their departure. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters continue to battle US and Afghan troops daily and carry out bombings and shootings in Kabul and other Afghan cities.

The proposed deal would reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 8,000-9,000, the figure for deployment when Trump assumed office. The Taliban would agree to a ceasefire, refuse to host Al Qaeda, Daesh and other radical factions seeking to attack the US, and negotiate with the US-backed government.

The 2003 Iraq war was a "war of choice" prosecuted by Bush as well. The subsequent eight-year US occupation gave rise to Al Qaeda in Iraq and its Syrian offshoots Jabhat Al Nusra, now Hay'at Tahrir Al Sham, and Daesh. The latter, of course, returned to Iraq to establish a cross-border false "caliphate", which the US, under Bush's successors Barack Obama and Trump, were compelled to fight along with foreign and local allies. Last December, Trump declared his intention to withdraw 2,200 US troops from Syria. He was, however, compelled to retain this level of deployment until Daesh was driven from its final scrap of territory in spring. At that time, he claimed victory and said Daesh was 100 per cent finished.

However, last week, the Pentagon issued a report saying that Daesh, which has up to 18,000 fighters in service, is resurging in Syria and Iraq, at least in part, due to Trump's drawdown. The Pentagon also argues that his reduction of US staff at the embassy in Iraq has weakened that country's struggle with Daesh. The report says that these cuts have left Washington's Syrian Kurdish partners and the Iraqi security forces "unable to sustain long-term operations against [Daesh] militants." The Syrian Kurds now have "limited capacity" to hold Syrian territory liberated from Daesh.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres revealed Daesh retains $300 million "with none of the financial demands of controlling territory and population". He told the Security Council that Daesh is capable of financing "terrorist acts" in Syria, Iraq and abroad.

The immediate consequence of Trump's drawdown in Syria has been Ankara's threat to seize a wide band of Syrian territory along the Syrian-Turkish border and drive US-backed Kurdish fighters from this area. Turkey brands Washington's Kurdish allies offshoots of the insurgent Turkish Workers' Party, which has been fighting for autonomy or independence for the past 35 years.

A Turkish military offensive would not only expel Kurdish fighters, but also drive Kurdish and Arab civilians from areas occupied by Turkish troops and surrogates. Ankara says it will settle in its "peace zone" Syrian refugees now living in Turkey. To prevent this scenario from unfolding, Pentagon officers have negotiated a deal with Ankara involving the creation of a buffer zone between Turkish and Kurdish forces, although details are still to be finalised. Again the US is in a weak position because of Trump's determination to pull out US forces.

The one war in this region that is roundly condemned by the international community is the war Trump remains determined to prosecute, although it is also stalemated. US, UK, and French weapons manufactures have provided arms, while Washington, London and Paris have deployed advisers and logistics experts for the Saudi-led campaign to defeat rebel Houthi tribesmen who seized large tracts of territory in Yemen in 2014-2015.

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