Effects of the U.S. Withdrawal From Syria

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense, Army Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Koster 

The U.S. has announced that it is withdrawing its military forces from Syria where they have been deployed as part of the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) campaign. The decision follows a U.S. redeployment of forces away from the Syrian border with Turkey and the subsequent offensive launched by Turkish and Turkish proxy forces. 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the immediate effects of the U.S. decision, including the responses of jihadist groups and the pro-Bashar al Assad regime coalition, and the long-term consequences for American national security interests. ISW's forthcoming publications, analysis, visual products, and podcasts will be accessible via this page.

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Baghdadi Leaves Behind a Global ISIS Threat, Jennifer Cafarella and Brandon Wallace with Caitlin Forrest, October 27, 2019

Turkey's Invasion Will Destabilize Northeast Syria, Col. (Ret.) Ketti Davison, October 25, 2019

10 Ways America's Situation in the Middle East Will Get Worse (Published by Defense One), Col. (Ret.) Ketti Davison, October 21, 2019

Forecast: The Consequences of the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria, Col. (Ret.) Ketti Davison, October 13, 2019

ISIS's Campaign to Escape Detention and Camps, Brandon Wallace, October 13, 2019


Russia-Turkey Deal Fails to Compel YPG Withdrawal from Northern Syria: October 31, 2019

Syria Situation Report: October 10 - 22, 2019

Russo-Turkish Agreement on Northeast Syria: October 22, 2019

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 18, 2019 

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 17, 2019 

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 16, 2019 (*updated 2:30 PM EST on October 16 to reflect pro-Assad regime deployments to Kobani

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 15, 2019 

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 14, 2019 

Situation in Northeast Syria: October 11, 2019

ISIS Breakouts from Prisons and Camps: 2005 - Present

Note: The Syria maps collated here were updated on November 7, 2019 to reflect an adjustment to the assessed ISIS support zone leading towards Qamishli. Previous versions had the support zone connecting to Amude. 


Overwatch: Crisis Brief - Turkey's Syria Incursion (Access the 6 episodes here)

Overwatch: Col. (U.S. Army, Ret.) Ketti Davison, ISW's Director of Tradecraft and Innovation, discusses the converging crises in Iraq and Syria, how different actors will view potential opportunities, and the implications for U.S. strategy in the region (October 14, 2019). Listen on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudSpotify, and Stitcher. 

Overwatch: Lt. Gen. (U.S. Army, Ret.) Michael Nagata, the former Director of Strategy at the National Counterterrorism Center, details the likely consequences of the impending U.S. withdrawal from Syria (October 13, 2019). Listen on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudSpotify, and Stitcher. 


ISW President Dr. Kimberly Kagan:

  • "The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria will mark a watershed moment in American history...ISIS will reconstitute in some form. It will pose a danger not only to Iraq and Syria, but to Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world. It will plan and inspire attacks, rally followers, and rekindle the hopes of terrorist groups around the world...The U.S. has undermined its credibility with its allies and partners and its reputation will suffer for a generation. America will find itself more alone than ever at moments of global need."

ISW Board Member General (U.S. Army, Ret.) David Petraeus:

  • "I am deeply concerned that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeast Syria will lead to a resurgence of ISIS attacks in Syria (and beyond), to Iranian and Russian exploitation of our withdrawal, to substantial casualties by the partners we supported in the defeat of ISIS in Syria, and a perception of the U.S. as an unreliable partner."

ISW Director of Innovation and Tradecraft Col. (Ret.) Ketti Davison:

  • "Jihadists emboldened by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria will almost certainly attempt to repeat this success by compelling a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq."

ISW Director of Research Jennifer Cafarella:

  • "The U.S. will look back on how fifty American special operations forces along the border was enough to make the difference between chaos and the chance for a political compromise."


Turkish Invasion of Northeast Syria Looks Imminent

Crisis Brief Podcast: Turkey's Syria Incursion

ISIS's Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Resurgence

ISIS's Campaign to Escape Detention in Iraq and Syria

Syria Situation Report: September 25 - October 10, 2019

ISIS Operating Areas: August 2019

Al Qaeda Attempts to Unify Forces in Syria