Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Trump gives no timetable for Syria troop withdrawal

Trump gives no timetable for Syria troop withdrawal

In Syria, about 2,000 U.S. soldiers operate alongside other foreign troops to assist local fighters battling Islamic State, a jihadist group that once held territory across much of Iraq and Syria and set up its own ultra-Islamist government.

According to a new report, President Trump is giving the US military four months to execute the withdrawal of the 2,000 United States troops in Syria roughly two weeks ago, when he reportedly told the Defense Department they had 30 days to pull out.

On Monday, Trump said on Fox News that he had conciliated Senator Lindsey Graham about Graham's concern regarding a rapid withdrawal, asserting, "I said, 'You know, I never said that I'm going to rush out.'" He added that the USA could still fight ISIS despite pulling out from Syria, positing, "You can do two things at once".

Over the intervening years the numbers of USA troops in Syria increased, standing today at some 2,000, though some estimates place the number perhaps even higher. "ISIS is mostly gone, we're slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families", Trump wrote, in part.

"We still have some differences but I will tell you that the president is thinking long and hard about Syria - how to withdraw our forces but at the same time achieve our national security interests", Graham said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's withdrawal plans and if there were any official changes to them.

Graham said he knew Trump was "frustrated" by his limited options in Syria.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus suggests that Mr Trump appears to be washing his hands of Syria and handing the whole job over to Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, saying the battle was "lost long ago", adding, "besides that, we're talking about sand and death".

Trump blamed Syria's instability on the policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who didn't attack Assad after he crossed the former USA president's "red line" of using chemical weapons on his own people. He said, "We have won against ISIS ... we have beaten them and we've beaten them badly and now it's time for our troops to come back home".

The president has long campaigned for the removal of US troops from the Middle East, arguing that there was no benefit for the country to be involved in the many conflicts there.

"And, at the end of the day, if we leave the Kurds and abandon them and they get slaughtered, who's going to help you in the future?" he said.

"I got a call from General Dunford", Graham said. "Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working".

Another prominent critic of the pullout was retired U.S. army general Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of USA and global forces in Afghanistan, who on Sunday warned on ABC's "This Week" that a United States pullout would likely cause "greater instability" in the region.

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