President Trump will move to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria immediately, declaring that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.”
“U.S. officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin an immediate pullout of American forces from the region where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State, the people said,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “The Pentagon has an order to get to move troops out of Syria as quickly as possible, “ a U.S. official said.
Trump has pledged to wrap up the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, often writing on Twitter that the U.S. was moving rapidly to defeat the group. On Wednesday, Trump said the work is done in Syria.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump wrote.
Said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: “Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. 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.
“The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders,” the Trump spokesman said.
The U.S. has some 2,000 military members in Syria and ISIS has been reduced to a single stronghold near the Iraq border. But in a phone call with Trump last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch an assault on the U.S.’s Kurdish partners in Syria.
“Mr. Erdogan steadfastly opposed the American partnership with Kurdish forces in Syria that he views as a terrorist force intent on destabilizing Turkey. But the U.S. has relied on the Kurdish forces as the most effective fighting force in Syria against Islamic State, which has been pushed to the brink of defeat,” the Journal reported.
In an April press conference, Trump laid out his opposition to remaining in Syria.
“I want to get out and bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” Trump said, noting the U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years.
“We get nothing out of it. Nothing. Nothing,” Trump said. “Seven trillion. We have nothing except death and destruction—it’s a horrible thing. We were very successful against ISIS, we’ll be successful against anyone militarily, but sometimes it’s time to come home and we’ll be thinking about that very seriously.”
By September, Trump’s rhetoric grew more heated. He warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Russia that the U.S. would soon take action. “If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry. And the United States is going to get very angry, too,” Trump said then.
The New York Times reported that “a formal withdrawal announcement could come as early as Wednesday, administration officials said. But Pentagon officials were still trying to talk the president out of it, arguing that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey.”
”At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region,” Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a short statement on Wednesday morning, the Times reported.