Biden must not allow Turkey, Russia to fill Middle East power vacuum - analyst

The administration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden must not allow Ankara and Moscow to fill the space filled by the U.S.’ withdrawal from the region under Donald Trump, wrote Dov. S. Zakheim, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in the Hill news site.

Trump, whose last day in office is on Jan. 20, 2021, is set on withdrawing as many troops as he can from the region. He has long called for U.S. troops to come home and has criticised U.S. military interventions over their costs and infectivity.

In Dec. 2018, he shocked allies and advisers with his plan to pull U.S. troops out of war torn Syria, effectively green-lighting a military operation by Turkey.

While Trump’s plans to withdraw U.S. forces in Afghanistan has drawn the most attention, Zakheim said, he is also looking to reduce forces in Iraq and Somalia, while curbing the presence of American aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Turkey since 2017 has established a series of bases throughout the Middle East, including Somalia and Libya, while ramping up its presence at its base in Qatar, the analyst underlined.

All the while, Russia, a key player in Syria and Libya, this month signed an agreement with Sudan to establish a naval logistics centre.

While the Biden administration will surely put a halt to the speed of the U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East, Zakheim said, the new administration will have to take its step further by making it clear that the United States has no intention of walking away from the region.