Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

'Confusion Around US Withdrawal From Syria Undermines US Credibility' - Army Gen

President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House Wednesday Jan. 2 2019 in Washington President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House Wednesday Jan. 2 2019 in Washington
Andrew Cummings | 11 January, 2019, 05:58

The top US military officer rebuffed demands from Turkey Wednesday to remove a series of American military observatory sites in northern Syria, which many see as a bulwark protecting Washington-backed Kurdish forces from a Turkish attack after USA troops leave.

Earlier this week, Trump, who has lost his secretary of defense James Mattis and his representative to the anti-Islamic State (IS) Coalition Brett McGurk over his surprise announcement on Syria, seemed to be taking a step back on the decision to withdraw the USA troops when he said the timeline was still being decided.

Fortunately, we need not take this statement literally.

US President Donald Trump caused a political storm last month when he announced the troop pullout, claiming to have succeeded in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Sharing a Twitter response to Pompeo's remarks, which were made during a visit to Egypt, Zarif suggested the USA has never gotten over its loss of Iran as an ally back in the late 1970s. He was criticized by conservatives for placing too much blame on the US for strife in the region.

Bolton told USA allies in the region that America would not beat a hasty retreat and would leave some troops behind to protect the Kurds, non-Arab Sunni Muslims who have done the lion's share of the fighting to defeat ISIS. A long-promised proposed Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

Another message he conveyed was that the Turkish Armed Forces has accomplished its preparations for an offensive into Syria to eliminate ISIL and that the operation was imminent.

In the speech entitled "A Force for Good: America's Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East", Pompeo emphasized America's positive impact on the region.

Many Kurds are concerned that a U.S. pullout will make them vulnerable to assaults from Turkey and the remaining members of ISIS still in the region.

Pompeo's speech drew immediate criticism from Middle East experts as well as officials who served under Obama who accused the secretary of state of violating the American tradition that "politics stops at the water's edge". Part of the problem for the ISIS fighters' home countries are the legal ramifications of holding citizens who were picked up on the battlefield - and how to prosecute them.

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"This isn't a change of mission", Pompeo said.

"It's important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected and Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that", Pompeo added.

A survey published by the Israel Democracy Institute Thursday found that almost two-thirds of Israelis believe the United States withdrawal from Syria will "damage Israeli security interests".

Joseph Dunford met in Ankara Monday and Tuesday with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Guler, and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on the planned US ground troop withdrawal from Syria, according to a readout of the meeting from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"John Bolton [US national security adviser] has made a grave mistake on this issue", a furious Mr Erdoğan told parliament as Mr Bolton arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials.

If Bolton is serious about protecting the Kurds, and if he's speaking for President Trump, we won't be withdrawing from Syria in the foreseeable future.

On a trip to Cairo, Pompeo insisted Trump's decision is final and Bolton's remarks did not contradict it.

"A military victory against the terrorist group is a mere first step", he said in the New York Times, warning against premature declarations of victory.

Turkey has repeatedly questioned Washington's deployment of heavy weapons in Syria despite the defeat of Daesh in much of the Arab country. As recently as 5 January, US Special Forces were still conducting patrols in the SDF-controlled town of Manbij, which both the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces and Syrian government have recently expressed intentions to recapture.

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