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Official says US to withdraw all American troops in Syria

20 December 2018

And though his statement ends there, the implications reportedly don't.

It had been thought defence officials wanted to maintain a U.S. presence.

A large contingent of the main US-backed, anti-IS fighting force in Syria, an alliance known as the Syrian Democratic forces (SDF), is Kurdish and is viewed by Turkey as a "terrorist" group. "I'm one who questions our authorization for our troops being there, but clearly this administration and the previous administration have taken the position that we need to have a military presence against ISIS".

A US withdrawal - including the end of joint USA and Turkish patrols along the border - could open the door for more Turkish operations against the Syrian rebels. Tim Kaine of Virginia is reported to have said that it's hard to believe the withdrawal from Syria isn't connected to the Patriot missile sales to Turkey, which amounted to $3.5 billion.

The withdrawal decision, however, is likely to be viewed positively by USA ally Turkey, and comes following several conversations between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the past several weeks.

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The Kremlin has long voiced concern over Washington's continuous support for the YPG, saying the United States is using Daesh as an excuse to prolong its presence in Syria, which is "illegal".

A US official said all US State Department personnel would leave Syria within 24 hours, with the time frame for the complete military pullout set between 60 and 100 days.

Ties have grown even more fraught since the USA set up observation posts in northern Syria close to the border with Turkey to prevent any altercation between Turkish forces and the YPG.

But she suggested troops could return if necessary and it is not immediately clear from her statement whether all 2,000 troops would leave if so, by when.

Pulling out USA forces now would be a "huge Obama-like mistake", Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter. The administration had been preparing to host a meeting of coalition foreign ministers at the State Department early next year.

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News of the planned withdrawal was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal. "Syria just is not that important to the US", Landis told RT.

"The bottom line is that the American withdrawal from eastern Syria will create a power vacuum that will lead to a new phase of worldwide conflict in Syria", she said in a telephone interview.

A US departure also would leave Russian Federation and Iran, allies of President Bashar al-Assad, unchecked as prime influences in Syria.

Around 2,000 USA troops are estimated to be on the ground in Syria, but the presence of the Islamic State is considered to be largely diminished.

They now control around 30 per cent of Syria's territory. Though the decision is likely to anger and annoy Pompeo and Bolton, The US can't hope to implement its anti-Iran policy without Turkish cooperation - not after Saudi Arabia's standing in Washington has been damaged by Erdogan's handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Landis explained.

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"You could pull all the ground troops out and still be running missile strikes against the Syrian government, or air campaigns against the Syrian military, and I would find that objectionable without a congressional authorization", Kaine said. "There may be a new mechanism for resolving the Syrian crisis" based on political processes and United Nations resolutions.

Official says US to withdraw all American troops in Syria