Conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens on Friday said that U.S. troops leaving Syria would create a vacuum "at the expense of our allies in Israel."
In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Stephens said that maintaining a U.S. troop presence in Syria is "a bargain of a policy next to what we might expect once we leave," adding that a power vacuum left behind will only empower Russia "at the expense of the Kurds."
The comments come one week after President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE announced his decision to withdraw troops from the war-torn nation, keeping a 2016 campaign promise.
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Stephens, a frequent critic of the president who moved to The New York Times from The Wall Street Journal in 2017, says Israel will also be in "much greater danger" without a U.S. presence in Syria.
"America maintaining what was really a relatively small military presence in Syria, about 2,000 troops, very low levels of casualties, in low single digits in the last year, is a bargain of a policy next to what we might expect once we leave," Stephens said.
"That vacuum is going to be filled by [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad, by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, by the ayatollahs of Iran who Donald Trump claims to be so powerfully against but is, in fact, enabling, by Russia, and it’s going to happen at the expense of the Kurds who did so much to defeat ISIS on our behalf," he continued.
"It’s going to happen at the expense of our allies in Israel who are now in much greater danger despite Trump's promise of being Israel’s best friend. It will reconstitute the Middle East that we fear, which is to say an exporter of terrorism and instability."
Trump also will reportedly cut U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by half from approximately 14,000 to 7,000 troops, with those troops returning home in the spring.