U.S. announces it is pulling all troops out of Syria

Hugh Fox
December 20, 2018

President Trump effectively confirmed the news, tweeting: "We have defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency".

"Even as the end of the physical caliphate is clearly now coming into sight, the end of ISIS will be a much more long-term initiative", McGurk told a State Department briefing on December 11.

The troop pullout, which American officials earlier said they were considering, ends assumptions about the U.S. staying in the war-ravaged nation on a long-term basis. It cites unnamed officials in reporting the USA has already started alerting its partners in the region of the move.

Just weeks ago, the US-led coalition had denied any pull out plans and said "Any reports indicating a change in the United States position with respect...is false and created to sow confusion and chaos".

The withdrawal of US troops comes as the USA approaches an end of a coalition campaign to recapture territory once controlled by IS.

Behind the scenes, Israel has supported a continuing USA presence, arguing that it helps counter pro-Iranian forces such as Hezbollah. But Turkish officials have said that before.

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Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the president's decision was unwise and put the Kurds "at risk", while Democratic Senator Jack Reed said it amounted to a "betrayal" of the Kurds that "provides further evidence of President Trump's inability to lead on the world stage".

Numerous remaining USA troops in Syria are special operations forces working closely with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Elaborating in a Facebook video, Rubio said that "I know that all of us would view that as a positive step in terms of the ability to sort of bring our servicemen and women back from the Middle East in a place where they are now engaged".

The decision also leaves an uncertain future for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which have clashed with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey over ties with Kurdish groups.

Trump had previously expressed his willingness to withdraw USA troops from Syria in April, yet no concrete steps were taken since.

The US decision to withdraw from Syria marks a remarkable development not just for the Kurds, but for years-old US doctrine in the region.

Evropolis, a Moscow-based company formed in 2016, reportedly struck a deal with the Syrian government granting it a 25 percent share of oil and natural gas produced on territory its mercenaries captured from ISIS past year. It established its de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

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They were driven from almost all their former territory in Syria past year in separate campaigns waged by the US-backed SDF on the one hand, and the Russian-backed Syrian government on the other.

"We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace".

President Donald Trump said American forces no longer were needed in a country torn apart by long-running civil war. It had estimated revenues of almost $1bn a year.

Last week ISIS' largest remaining fortification at Hajin was seized by US-backed militia as 900 jihadist fighters were decimated in battle.

ISIL is also widely expected to revert to guerrilla tactics once it no longer holds territory. Asked how the decision would impact Trump's hand in UN-led talks, a source close to the USA administration told Al-Monitor it "would seem to weaken it".

Trump has previously lambasted his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the withdrawal of USA forces from Iraq that preceded an unraveling of the Iraqi armed forces. The group also controls some desert terrain west of the river in territory otherwise controlled by the Damascus government and its allies.

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In a statement, she said: "Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and risky force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate".

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