The United States may not be pulling its troops out of Syria after all. At least, not immediately, as was promised.
Last month, President Donald Trump pledged that US troops would withdraw from the middle eastern country “now” after declaring Islamic State had been defeated.
“So our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won, and that’s the way we want it,” he said in a video uploaded to Twitter.
After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home! pic.twitter.com/xoNjFzQFTp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
But Mr Trump’s own security adviser, John Bolton, tells a different story.
On a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey, he described the pullout as a “cause-and-effect” mission, saying it ultimately rested on certain policy changes being put into effect.
“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully co-ordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops — but also so that they meet the President’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,” Mr Bolton told reporters.
He said certain “objectives” must be achieved before a pullout can occur.
“The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”
He also noted Mr Trump “wants the ISIS caliphate destroyed”.
Mr Trump has since had a change of tack, claiming he never said the administration would be withdrawing US troops any time soon.
The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019
“The President hasn’t changed his position, as he mentioned his primary goal is to ensure the safety of our troops and the safety of our allies as well,” White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News on Monday.
“And so the Department of Defence will come up with its operational plan to safely withdraw our troops.”
On Sunday, Mr Bolton added a new condition to the US withdrawal from Syria, saying Turkey must agree to protect the United States’ Kurdish allies.
Mr Trump’s abrupt decision to announce a US pullout left many questions open, chiefly whether Kurdish fighters who had been operating in northern Syria alongside US forces would now be attacked by their long-time enemy, Turkey.
On a December visit to a US air base in Iraq, Trump said that military commanders had repeatedly requested extensions for the 2000 US troops in Syria — requests that he finally turned down because he said Islamic State was largely beaten.
— with Reuters