US ‘planning to withdraw Syria troops’

US ‘planning to withdraw Syria troops’

Breaking News
US troops in Syria on 4 November 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The timing of a withdrawal is unclear and the Pentagon has not commented

The US is preparing to withdraw all its troops from Syria, US media are quoting defence officials as saying.

CBS said it was told the White House had ordered the Pentagon to “begin planning for an immediate withdrawal”.

President Donald Trump tweeted that the Islamic State (IS) group – also known as ISIS – had been defeated in Syria, his “only reason for being there”.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of IS, but pockets of fighters remain.

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It had been thought US defence officials wanted to stay to ensure the militant group could not rebuild.

Just a few days ago, Brett McGurk, Mr Trump’s special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat IS, said:”Nobody is saying that [IS fighters] are going to disappear. Nobody is that naive. So we want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas”.

But President Trump promised in March this year that US troops would leave Syria “very soon”.

The Pentagon has so far refused to comment.

Turkish operation in Syria

Just last week Turkey warned it was planning to launch an operation against US-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria “in the next few days”.

The move, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said would focus on territory to the east of the Euphrates river, risks confrontation with the US.

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US forces are also in south-eastern Syria, supporting an alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters (the Syrian Democratic Forces) that is closing in on the last pocket of territory controlled by IS there, around the town of Hajin in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US-led multinational coalition against IS said in a statement that the operation, which began on 1 May, was continuing “to gain ground and remove terrorists from the battlefield”.

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