During the recent Memorial Day Holiday Weekend in the United States (May 28th) the Biden Administration released its proposed Budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year that begins in October.
For those who support the anti-ISIS coaltion active in Northeastern Syria the news will not be pleasant. For the third straight year the amount of Military Assistance that will be provided by the United States to Anti-ISIS fighters in both Syria and Iraq will once again be reduced. In 2020 the amount provided by the U.S. to these groups totaled $1.2 Billion Dollars. In 2021 that amount was reduced to $710 Million to the proposed $522 Million.
The amount that will be provided to the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) which the US helped stand up back in 2015 will see its funding shrink from $200 Million in 2020 to the proposed $177 Million in this budget.
Depending on ones point of view one can take look at this move in specific lenses. One view is that the move is another step in scaling back the role of the United States in what has been called the “Forever Wars” in the Middle East. Another view is that Turkey has been lobbying succesive Administrations in Washington to reduce aid to its allies and support the Turkish proxies that are currently operating in Syria.
Another move that the Biden Administration has made was not to renew a waiver for a U.S. Oil Company Delta Crescent Energy to operate in the region. Most U.S. Companies are prevented from operating in Syria under rules currently in place from the Treasury Department. However the Trump Administration granted a waiver to the company to keep some of the Oil Profits in the region under the protection of a small U.S. Force.
It has been determined that keeping the Oil in the region to assist the authorities there is no longer U.S. Government Policy according to a official in the Biden Administration. The Official also stated that it was no longer appropiate for the U.S. Military to facilitate oil production for the region which the Kurdish-led Government needs to generate revenue.
Now is the Biden Administration preparing to disengage in Syria? That is a proper question. There is no clear answer. The SDF clearly values its relationships that it has built in Washington, So they would not want them to be broken.
That being said Turkey will most likely continue its efforts to link the Kurds residing in Syria and Iraq with the PKK which is considered by Ankara to be a Terrorist Group. It has also lobbied both Russia and the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad to that effect to allow Turkish troops to have a presence in Northwest Syria. It also is using similar tactics in Iraq as well to prevent any Kurdish influence from entering Turkey.
These steps can be seen as the Biden Administration taking the necessary steps to address what they see as a more pressing Security Challenge in Asia. That challenge is being presented by China. But is walking away from allies the proper move by the U.S.?