Action needs to be taken

Syrian President Bashar Assad is secure in his position, with the support of Russian military might. The Islamic State organization in Syria has been nearly wiped out.

President Donald Trump has pledged to end the U.S. military presence in Syria. “We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.

Therein lies the rub. U.S. troops in Syria have been there in support of indigenous forces, who have been engaged in battle against both the IS and Assad’s regime. The civil war in Syria began long before anyone had ever heard of the IS.

What happens to those allies when U.S. ground troops are withdrawn and American air power can be called in no longer?

At that point, Syrian government and Russian forces will be free to focus their military wrath against the rebels.

Assad is a brutal dictator who should have been removed years ago. But our government had the opportunity to do that, under former President Barack Obama. He refused, for one reason or another, to act.

What, then, should U.S. leaders do about the rebel forces who have grown to rely on us?

First, it needs to be made perfectly clear to them that their protector is leaving. Second, some attempt should be made to help rebels willing to give up the fight and seek refuge. If the United States can arrange some haven for them, perhaps elsewhere in the Middle East, that should be done — if it is possible consistent with U.S. security and diplomacy. Merely leaving the rebels to die should not be considered an option.