Diplomacy

U.S. Begins Withdrawing Troops from Syria

The United States has begun withdrawing its troops from Syria, following last month’s announcement by President Donald Trump that the U.S. would leave the country, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led forces fighting ISIS, stated that U.S. troops have “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.” He provided no further details of the withdrawal, saying, “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.”

Subsequent to Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, senior administration officials have sought to assure Israel and other regional allies that the withdrawal would not endanger them.

The area in northeastern Syria, where 2,000 U.S. ground troops are stationed, is oil-rich and strategically located near the border with Iraq through which Tehran has been sending into Syria Iranian-backed militia forces under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Israel and Arab allies fear that, as a result of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Iran will tap into the area’s natural resources to offset some of the economic losses it is incurring following the reimposition of U.S. sanctions after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal.

Turkey also has interests in the area, which is largely controlled by Kurdish forces allied with the U.S.-led collation in Syria that Ankara sees as a national security threat. Turkey has amassed troops at the border and threatened to send them into Syria to fight the Kurds.

However, in a visit to Israel earlier this week, National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the withdrawal would be gradual and would not put U.S. regional allies in “jeopardy.”

At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolton specified the “the defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured,” that the Kurds and other allies would be protected, and that the U.S. would “make sure ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.”

In a major speech delivered in Cairo on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. would work to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria. He also expressed U.S. support for “Israel’s efforts to stop Tehran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.”

The Times of Israel reported at the end of last month, a senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu had asked Trump to delay the withdrawal from Syria. Subsequently, The New York Times reported that the president had agreed to stagger the troop withdrawal over a four-month period, rather than immediately as he had originally stated.

[Photo: CENTCOM ]