US Politics

Australia should be 'concerned' by US decision to pull troops out of Syria, expert warns

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Donald Trump's decision to begin removing troops from Syria could have ramifications for Australian forces in the region, warns an expert in Islamic politics.

United States President Donald Trump's decision to begin withdrawing US troops from Syria could have ramifications for Australian defence personnel in the Middle East.

While the US President said IS has been defeated and troops are no longer necessary in the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reaffirmed the presence of Australian troops in neighbouring Iraq.

Australia currently has 800 troops in the region.

US President Donald Trump has declared the war won in Syria. But what does that mean for Australia?
US President Donald Trump has declared the war won in Syria. But what does that mean for Australia?
AP

Although the US is planning to pull out troops from Syria, they will still have 5,200 people across the border in Iraq.

Mr Morrison said Australia "supports a free, independent and sovereign Iraq", and that the government is committed to staying in Iraq to achieve that. 

Greg Barton, Chair In Global Islamic Politics at Melbourne's Deakin University, said President Trump's decision to remove troops from Syria could be problematic for Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen during a visit to Task Group Taji at Taji Military Complex in Iraq.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen during a visit to Task Group Taji at Taji Military Complex in Iraq.
AAP

"If IS gains ground, and if the Iranians and the Russians and Turks gain ground in north-eastern Syria, it's going to impact on decisions we have to make down the track," he said.

"This is in terms of whether we keep further military deployments to help with troop training in Iraq or Syria, or whether we have to deal with a change in security outlook in the region," Mr Barton said. 

"So the short answer is we should be very, very concerned."

Mr Trump says IS has been defeated and troops are no longer necessary in the country,
Mr Trump says IS has been defeated and troops are no longer necessary in the country,
Getty Images

The White House has not offered a timeline for withdrawal and has not confirmed explicitly that President Trump has ordered a total withdrawal.

But what seems clear is the President has overridden the advice from his top national security advisers, US ground commanders - and stunned politicians with the announcement.

The decision could leave the United States with few options to prevent a possible resurgence of IS and could also undermine diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian civil war, which is now in its eighth year.

Fellow Republicans have slammed the President's Syria decision as an "Obama-like move".
Fellow Republicans have slammed the President's Syria decision as an "Obama-like move".
AAP

Republican Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham, who is often a strong ally of the President, said this decision will have "devastating consequences".

"If this decision is a withdrawal of all of our forces in Syria now, we're dramatically less safe," he said.

"This is an Obama-like move."

"IS would not be alive today if it were not for Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq," Senator Graham said.

"I'll have to say if Trump withdraws from Syria and they do come back like I think they will, he'll be one of the reasons they came back."

While IS' control has been decimated in the country, Lowy Institute research fellow Rodger Shanahan said he wouldn't say they have been defeated. 

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Scott Morrison's surprise Iraq visit.
Scott Morrison's surprise Iraq visit.

"Brett McGurk, the longtime representative against Islamic State from the US government, has said what they want to achieve is an enduring defeat and an enduring defeat has not been achieved yet," he said. 

So using the term defeat when there is still contact with Islamic State forces going on as well, I'd have to say, is a bit premature," he said.

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