US President Donald Trump said Wednesday the US-led coalition has succeeded in militarily defeating the Daesh terrorist group, signalling a looming withdraw of forces from Syria, reports Anadolu Agency.
“We have defeated ISIS [Daesh] in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump said on Twitter.
The announcement follows reports the US is preparing to withdraw its roughly 2,000 troops from northeastern Syria where they have been working to defeat Daesh.
Trump had previously voiced his intent to leave Syria, but faced push-back from the Pentagon’s top brass and some of his top officials who had sought to maintain the US’s military posture in the country until Iranian forces exited.
The White House appeared to confirm the US departure, stressing military victories against Daesh 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 steps of this campaign,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. “The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary.”
But the statement leaves unclear the extent of the withdrawal, as well as its timeline.
The reassurance presented by the White House were met with stiff opposition from some on Capitol Hill who warn far more work remains against Daesh.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president, said doing so “would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” a likely reference to the removal of US forces from Iraq under former President Barack Obama. “With all due respect, ISIS [Daesh] is not defeated in Syria, Iraq,” Graham said in a series of twitter posts. “President @realDonaldTrump is right to want to contain Iranian expansion. However, withdrawal of our forces in Syria mightily undercuts that effort and put our allies, the Kurds at risk.”
“A decision to withdraw will also be viewed as a boost to ISIS [Daesh] desire to come back,” he said.
The decision follows a military operation in northeastern Syria vowed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the YPG/PKK. Ankara has carried out two separate military operations in northern Syria in the past.
The US had warned against a new operation in northeastern Syria as it works alongside the YPG-led SDF, which is fighting Daesh in its last remaining major foothold in eastern Syria.