US mulling complete withdrawal of troops from Syria
- Author: Sonia Alvarado Dec 20, 2018,
Dec 20, 2018, 1:49
The decision came after a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. American troops also have a smaller ground presence in southern Syria along the border with Jordan.
In April, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the administration had made a decision about whether to pull troops, although White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not say at the time whether that meant troops were coming home. As recently as the last few weeks, top administration officials have expressed the importance of having a presence in the region and that ISIS is still a threat there.
"The Coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over", White said.
The official said the US plans to pull military forces out of the country once the final stages of the last operation against Islamic State is complete, and that the time-frame for the troop pullout is expected to be between 60 to 100 days.
A senior Kurdish official said Wednesday that they were holding an "emergency meeting" to plan next steps.
Kinzinger likened the withdrawal and Trump's proclamation to Barack Obama withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2011, allowing ISIS to form and grow in the ensuing years.
Yet Trump seems hellbent on fulfilling a campaign promise, tweeting Wednesday morning that he had accomplished his goal of defeating the Islamic State.
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement said he had spoken over the past two days with the USA president and secretary of state about their intention to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.
The US has 2,000 troops stationed on the ground in Syria, and the move will be welcomed by Iran and Russian Federation, as critics say it will diminish the US's influence in the region. And the White House and Pentagon are offering sparse details on how such a withdrawal will work, with the White House and the Pentagon referring questions to each other Wednesday in the wake of the announcement.
National security adviser John Bolton warned in September that the United States would stay in Syria until the departure of Iran - a key backer of Assad. "So that will take some time", he said, according to Bloomberg News.
A US withdrawal could open Trump up to criticism if Islamic State reemerged. Lindsey Graham said in a statement that pulling out troops would be an "Obama-like" mistake that would help terrorists in Syria, strengthen the rulers of Syria and Iran, and abandon Kurds who have joined Americans in the fight against the Islamic State.
"There's clandestine [ISIS] cells [in Syria]".
"Any reports indicating a change in the United States position with respect" to the U.S. military presence in Syria "is false and created to sow confusion and chaos", the coalition said in a statement.
Although the formal objective of the troops is the defeat of the militants, the administration has broadly defined that goal as ensuring that the Islamic State can not reassert itself, that political stability has been achieved under United Nations resolutions for a new constitution and eventual elections, and that all Iranian and Iranian proxy forces have left the country. "If the Americans really do pull their troops out, I think that would only help stabilize the situation in Syria", Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the worldwide affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament, said, according to the Interfax news service.