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Another leader in the US fight against ISIS resigned to protest Trump’s Syria decision

Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the global coalition against IS, speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. McGurk says the fight for Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital, will "only accelerate" as the militants lose their grip on Iraq's Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
AP Photo/Hadi Mizban
McGurk out.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

One day after secretary of defense James Mattis resigned from his post in disagreement with Donald Trump’s snap decision to withdraw troops from Syria, a top diplomat in the mission against ISIS followed Mattis’s lead.

Brian McGurk, who was on the ground in Syria when Trump announced his decision, submitted his resignation yesterday (Dec. 21), CBS News first reported.

An attorney who entered public service as a diplomat in Iraq during the Bush administration, McGurk was appointed as special presidential envoy to the coalition battling ISIS by president Barack Obama and remained into Trump’s tenure.

Like Mattis, McGurk left due to strong disagreement with Trump’s decision. Mattis warned in his resignation letter that the president’s decision didn’t honor the US commitment to its allies fighting in Syria, and would cause serious security risks in the fight against ISIS.

McGurk’s resignation letter echoed those views, saying that though there has been progress in the fight against ISIS, the militants aren’t yet defeated, and a hastily withdrawal would lead to a risk of ISIS resurgence.

According to CBS News, McGurk was planning to leave his post in February, but his decision was accelerated by the latest turn of events.

Just over a week ago, the envoy, who has been leading the anti-terrorism mission in the area since 2015, told the reporters that the US was committed to continuing the fight against ISIS, adding that ”it would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.”

As Trump was deciding to end the mission—without consulting with the allies on the field, and against the advice of US military and diplomats—McGurk was in the field meeting with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. They discussed the situation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and other militias which are engaged on the ground against ISIS in Syria, and have been receiving US guidance and support.

It is unclear what will happen to the these forces once the US withdraws, nor is it established whether American forces will continue airstrikes if ground troops are withdrawn.

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