Bolton says USA withdrawal conditional

Adjust Comment Print

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday outlined conditions for a USA troop departure from Syria that appeared to contradict President Trump's insistence less than a month ago that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

Bolton was due to hold talks later on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the discussions would focus on Iran's role in the region and the situation in Syria.

Last month Trump made the unexpected decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria, sparking criticism from many allies and security aides, including his own Cabinet.

Bolton is in Israel to reassure the American ally about the planned withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which Israel fears could allow a resurgence of the Islamic State there.

Trump announced plans for the withdrawal in December, saying that U.S. forces would pull out of the country since the Daesh* terrorist group had already been defeated there.

Trump's announcement about the intended troop withdrawal was greeted by surprise and condemnation from many US lawmakers and allies, and prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the USA special envoy for the anti-IS coalition in protest. Thus, the Turks can not reasonably be expected to forebear from attacking the Kurdish forces if the U.S.is out of the picture.

But Trump appeared to indicate Sunday that Iran and Russian Federation, whose forces in Syria back Assad, were potential USA allies against the Islamic State. The two soldiers have been airlifted to hospital by a United States helicopter.


On Friday, Netanyahu held a phone talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the first time since the USA withdrawal announcement. He is to deliver a warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week.

Talking to reporters in Washington, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to withdrawing U.S. troops, but added that he had "never said we're doing it that quickly".

That comment built on frictions that flared on Friday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview the USA wanted to ensure the "Turks don't slaughter the Kurds" once its troops are out of the region.

Trump touched off global confusion when he announced via Twitter on December 19 that he would order the withdrawal of the 2,000 troops stationed in Syria.

Previously, a U.S. defense official told CNN that the United States expected Turkey to make various requests for support - including for airstrikes in Syria - but the USA would first seek assurances from Ankara that it will not attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

The move shocked U.S. allies and American defence officials alike, with USA defence secretary Jim Mattis and a top United States official in the fight against IS, Brett McGurk, resigning soon after. Bolton said there was no fixed timetable and some USA troops would remain, at least in the south of the country.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria must be planned carefully, and with the right partners, saying Turkey was the only country "with the power and commitment to perform that task".


The US will give a green light to some type of Turkish operation in Syria, just maybe not to the extent that Turkey wants, according to Erim, who reiterated recent debates about a 40-mile buffer zone into Syria.

The holy site, which is also one of the country's major tourist attraction, is controversial and foreign officials generally avoid meeting in the area.

"But as we saw with the embassy move to Jerusalem, this wouldn't necessarily have strategic or enduring negative consequences for the United States or Israel", Ruhe continued.

Mr Netanyahu said he would discuss Iran's ambitions in Syria when he met Mr Bolton on Sunday evening.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is following Bolton to the Mideast this coming week for an eight-country tour of Arab allies to shore up support for the administration's partners in the region.

"I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out", said U.S. Sen.


Comments