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White House Intends To Pull U.S. Troops From Syria

20 December 2018

In April, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the administration had made a decision about whether to pull troops, although White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not say at the time whether that meant troops were coming home.

The US has at least 2,000 troops stationed in the region where it has also waged an air campaign in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling the Islamic State (IS) group.

Some analysts said the news will mark the fulfillment of a major Trump campaign promise and indicates the US believes its war on the Islamic State is coming to an end.

Kinzinger likened the withdrawal and Trump's proclamation to Barack Obama withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2011, allowing ISIS to form and grow in the ensuing years. A rapid American withdrawal could allow the militants to regain strength. "Russian Federation and Iran are seeking greater influence in Syria", Engel said in a statement.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has also suggested that a precipitous withdrawal could enable militants to make a comeback, as they did in Iraq before the Islamic State's rise in 2014. Those US forces are now based mostly in the eastern and northern parts of Syria, fighting ISIS remnants and training Kurdish and other allied fighters. But the decision underscores the division between him and his military advisers, who have said in recent weeks that pockets of IS militants remain and US policy has been to keep troops in place until the extremists are eradicated.

The deliberations on US troops come as Ankara threatens a new offensive in Syria. American troops also have a smaller ground presence in southern Syria along the border with Jordan.

"At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region", Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement. "In order to have a successful diplomatic outcome, you have to have a military option and a military presence".

The SDF have been the main USA partners on the ground in Syria in the fight against IS, but the alliance has infuriated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey which sees the SDF - which is heavily dominated by the pro-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long guerilla war with the Turkish state.

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But the SDF is strongly opposed by Turkey, which sees any powerful Kurdish militia as a potential threat and further inspiration for Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. The US has long resisted extradition, arguing that Turkey has no credible evidence for Gulen's responsibility for a failed coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016.

The commander in chief's decision should have been "no surprise" to lawmakers, said a senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Estimates vary as to how many ISIS fighters are left in Syria. About 2,000 USA troops are now in the northeastern part of the country, near the Turkish border. But "from a elementary, human moral perspective, this is a reasonable and positive step toward stabilizing this long-suffering country", Shamanov told the Interfax news agency. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has previously announced Russian withdrawals from Syria, but the Russian military remains active there.

"We will lose influence in the region, and I believe we will lose influence beyond the region as a result of this decision", he said.

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White House Intends To Pull U.S. Troops From Syria