President Trump has “ordered full US troop withdrawal from Syria” saying that the defeat of ISIS was his only reason for being there.
Trump tweeted that the terror group had been defeated, as the White House announced that the US had started pulling out its troops.
We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
Does this mean America will finally exit Syria?
The full White House statement was issued late Wednesday morning:
Sarah Sanders: “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign…” pic.twitter.com/1V00r4WUyP
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) December 19, 2018
RT reports: However, it added that the move does not mean an end of the military campaign in the war-torn country but marks a “new phase” in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
“These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
She also partly echoed an earlier tweet by President Trump, who also said that IS terrorists were defeated while calling the group “the only reason for [the US troops] being there [in Syria].”
Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson said three months ago that ISIS “is well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge. It’s probably still more capable than al-Qaida in Iraq at its peak in 2006-2007.” https://t.co/luyBT3cQS0
— Jamie O’Grady 🤔 (@JamieOGrady) December 19, 2018
According to some reports, the withdrawal might primarily affect the US troops on the ground working together with an alliance of Arab and Kurdish militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The US has a total of 2,000 servicemen there, who are particularly involved in training the local militias. The news come as the SDF are reportedly on the verge of retaking one of the terrorist group’s last major strongholds – the town of Hajin, located east of the Euphrates.
The pullout is expected to take between 60 and 100 days, according to reports citing US officials. Additional reports suggested that all US State Department personnel would also be evacuated from Syria within 24 hours.
Even after the withdrawal, however, the US would still maintain a sizeable presence in the neighboring Iraq, with some 5,200 troops stationed just across the Syrian border. The aircraft of the US-led coalition – the primary tool of Washington and its allies in the Syrian conflict – will also still be able to continue their air raids flying out of Qatar and other bases in the Middle East.
Washington’s decision comes just days after the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the US to make its Kurdish allies withdraw from the town of Manbij, located west of the Euphrates, in northeastern Syria.
Ankara considers Syrian Kurdish militias an extension of the Turkey-based anti-government guerrillas and brands the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters as terrorists. Erdogan threatened to order his troops to storm Manbij if the US fails to fulfill his demand. Last week, he announced plans to launch a military operation in the Kurdish areas “within days.”
In early December, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford complained that the US lacks trained local fighters on the ground to “provide stability” to Syria.
Trump made an announcement that the US would be leaving Syria “very soon” back in March and never officially walked it back.