ISIS attack refutes Pence-Trump claims: Darcy cartoon

January 17, 2019

ISIS attack refutes Pence-Trump claims: Darcy cartoon

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- “The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.”  So declared Vice President Mike Pence after, not before, ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack that killed four Americans in Syria.

Two US servicemen, one Department of Justice civilian staffer and one DOJ contractor, were among the casualties in the ISIS bombing in the northern Syria city of Manbij. 

Pence had been briefed on the attack before making his tone-deaf remarks while speaking during the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the U.S. State Department.

“Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we’re now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners and we’re bringing our troops home,” said Pence at the conference.

Wednesday afternoon, Pence released a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the families of the fallen.  But still maintained ISIS had been “crushed.”

“Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities.  As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assure, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate - not now, not ever.”

Trump had closed out 2018 by announcing the U.S. would be withdrawing troops from Syria.  Trump made the announcement without briefing relevant U.S. officials and against their recommendations.

Upon announcing the withdrawal, Trump tweeted:

“We’ve been fighting for a long time in Syria. I’ve been president for almost two years, and we’ve really stepped it up, and we have won against ISIS.  We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly, we’ve taken back the land, and now it’s time for our troops to come home...Now we’ve won.  It’s time to come back.”

The withdrawal announcement came as a surprise to U.S. coalition partner in Syria, the Kurds.   While Trump and Pence are prepared to turn over the fight to the Kurds, the Kurds are not prepared.  In addition to the Kurds lacking the air and land power the U.S. provides, the Kurds are themselves a target of Turkey.

When Trump made his surprise visit to Iraq during the holiday, military commanders warned him that talk of ‘mission accomplished’ was premature, that ISIS had not been fully defeated in Syria.

Since then, Trump slightly altered his message to say ISIS is “largely” defeated, but is sticking to his plan to withdraw troops.

Of course everyone ultimately wants troops to return.  No one wants them to be in spots where they’re no longer necessary.   That’s not yet the case in Syria, according to US military commanders, the Kurds and terrorism experts.

By hoisting the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely, Trump and Pence unwittingly  stuck a “Kick Me” sign on the back of Uncle Sam.

No troop withdrawal in Syria should be done in a way that emboldens ISIS, weakens coalition partners, like the Kurds, and strengthens the hands of Putin, Assad and Iran.

Update hourly