Military/Defense

Bolton Says U.S. Withdrawal From Syria Is Conditional on ISIS defeat and Kurdish protection

1/7/19
from The Wall Street Journal,
1/6/19:

National security adviser says pullout depends on assurances Turkey will protect America’s Kurdish allies.

The Trump administration won’t withdraw forces from northern Syria unless Turkey offers a firm commitment not to target the U.S.’s Kurdish allies, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday. President Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops is a “cause-and-effect mission” that requires certain assurances from various players in the region before it can be executed, said Mr. Bolton, the first administration official to outline the conditions for withdrawal. His comments marked the first public acknowledgment from the White House that the safety of Kurdish allies is being considered as part of its pending withdrawal plan, but it also indicates that a quick withdrawal was unlikely given challenging regional dynamics. “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see,” he said. “It’s not the establishment of an arbitrary point for the withdrawal to take place as President Obama did in the Afghan situation…the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.” Mr. Trump reaffirmed on Sunday his commitment to withdrawing U.S. troops, though he said “we won’t be finally pulled out until [Islamic State] is gone.”

Turkey has asked the U.S. to provide substantial military support to allow Turkish forces to assume the main responsibility for fighting Islamic State in Syria, senior U.S. officials said. Mr. Jeffrey has asked Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish commander of Syrian fighters, to hold off on making any deals with President Bashar al-Assad’s government while the Trump administration tries to develop its strategy.

Mr. Bolton said part of his discussions in Ankara this week will be aimed at determining “what the dispensary of the Turkish forces is going to be, how they relate to the opposition, and so on.” A senior administration official said on Friday the U.S. is also discussing the possibility of maintaining control of the airspace over northeastern Syria, though no decisions have been made. The official, who is traveling with Mr. Bolton, said on Friday that while there is no timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, the president has received assurances from his military commanders that “this can be done in weeks.”

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