The special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, on Friday informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he would be vacating his post come February 2019. The decision as made because McGurk strongly disagrees with President Donald Turmp's desire to pull troops out of Syria. McGurk's resignation comes one day after Defense Secretary General James Mattis also resigned for similar sentiments.
From CBS News:
As leader of the counter ISIS mission, McGurk had been in the region to meet with coalition partners including Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani last week when Mr. Trump made his sudden decision to pull U.S. support. According to Barzani's office, he had raised concern about the fate of Kurds in Syria including the Kurdish-led group of fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They have been the ground troops in the fight against ISIS and receive help from U.S. advisers, weapons and air strikes.
It is now unclear what will happen to those fighters after the U.S. troops withdraw, and whether the U.S. will continue to carry out air strikes in support of them.
Just days earlier, McGurk had stood at the State Department podium to guarantee an ongoing U.S. commitment to the fight. He told reporters that ISIS inhabited just one percent of the territory they once held thanks to the success of the U.S.-led campaign but still maintained a dangerous level of influence.
"I think it's fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring."
McGurk went on to say, "it would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who's looked at a conflict like this would agree with that."
At the time he made those remarks, the Trump administration's policy was to remain in Syria to help stabilize areas under the control of U.S. allies and until Iran pulled out its militias. American allies were shocked to learn via tweet that the U.S. was pulling out.
According to emails obtained by the Associated Press, McGurk was shocked by Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria.
“The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy. It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered with no plan in place or even considered thought as to consequences," McGurk said in an email to his staff. “I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout, but — as many of you heard in my many meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity at the same time."
McGurk is one of the few Obama appointees the Trump administration asked to stay in their positions. He also was crucial in partaking in secret negotiations with Iran, which lead to the release of American prisoners back in 2016, one of which included The Washington Post's Jason Rezaian.
President Trump took to Twitter to discuss McGurk's resignation:
Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2018
McGurk's last day on the job is Dec. 31.