President Trump announces end of Syria operations

20 December 2018
Decision stuns allies who fear US troops withdrawal could lead to IS resurgence

US troops are being withdrawn from Syria after US President Donald Trump declared on social media that the Islamic State (IS) had been defeated and that it's time to bring "our great young people home".

It is understood the process of returning troops to the US has started although neither the White House nor the Pentagon has disclosed the exact timeline for the withdrawal.

Domestic and international US allies have disputed the decision citing that the move could lead to a resurgence of IS.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican and Trump supporter, called the decision a “huge Obama-like mistake” that would have devastating consequences both in Syria and beyond.

He said he feared it would mean ceding influence in the region to Russia and Iran.

According to a BBC report, some 2,000 US troops have helped rid much of northeastern Syria of IS although “pockets of fighters remain”.

It had been thought defence officials wanted to maintain a US presence to ensure IS did not rebuild, the BBC said.

The UK government is understood to have distanced itself from President Trump’s assertion that the IS has now been defeated.

“Much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose,” a UK Foreign Office statement said.

Only Russia has so far welcomed Trump’s decision. BBC cited  Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova  as saying the move could result in “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” in Syria.

The decision by the US President also follows a call on 14 December with Turkish President Recip Erdogan, a long-term critic of US support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey views the YPG, which heads the ruling coalition in northeastern Syria, as an extension of the banned PKK group in Turkey, and has threatened to invade to Syria to remove them.

The withdrawal could be seen by Turkey as a green light for its invasion, a conflict that could draw Kurdish forces north and away from the fight against the Islamic State in the southeast.

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