Trump hints at imminent US withdrawal from Syria

President’s comment appears in conflict with national security team’s plans

President Donald Trump said the US would be withdrawing forces from Syria at an event in Ohio on (March 29). Asked whether the US would be withdrawing troops, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was not aware of any such plan.

 

US president Donald Trump has suggested that he planned to pull American troops out of Syria, where they have aided a military campaign that has recaptured the vast majority of the territory once controlled by the Islamic State (IS). “We’re knocking the hell out of Isis,” he said. “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

He added: “Very soon, very soon we’re coming out. We’re going to have 100 percent of the caliphate, as they call it – sometimes referred to as ‘land’ – taking it all back quickly, quickly.”

The comment seemed in conflict with plans by Mr Trump’s national security team to keep a small force in place. As recently as Tuesday, US defense secretary Jim Mattis said that while US forces were no longer in “an offensive effort on the ground” and had “drawn off slightly” to avoid accidental conflict with Russian troops, they continued to play a role. “We continue the operations in Syria,” he said.

Some foreign policy specialists said a complete withdrawal of US troops from Syria would leave a dangerous void. “If we’re pulling those troops out, we’re ceding the remnants of Syria to the Russians and the Iranians and the other actors, which actually I would argue would be a big victory for Russia,” said Jamie M Fly, a Republican scholar at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. – New York Times