Bolton Says U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Syria Rests on Accomplishing 'Objectives'

Adjust Comment Print

US President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Sunday set out conditions for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, saying the defence of allies must first be assured.

"There is absolutely no change in the USA position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we've done twice before", Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement", he noted. He said in meetings with Turkish counterparts, he will seek "to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain".

Those conditions, he said, included the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protections for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside USA troops against the extremist group.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said the United States "is acting against Iran at the economic level and we here in Israel are acting against Iran at the military level". "That's what the president said, the ones that fought with us", Bolton said.


That announcement was met with criticism from members of both parties, and was followed by two high-profile resignations: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the USA envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

On December 20, Trump claimed that the United States Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis is retiring in late February.

Trump's move has raised fears about clearing the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria who have fought alongside American troops against IS extremists.

Trump's advisers and GOP allies have warned that pulling out USA troops would also leave Kurdish fighters - who had been vital allies - susceptible to attacks by Turkey, where leaders see the group as a threat to their nation's sovereignty. Ankara regards the YPG an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish group that has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey. That group has been classified as a terrorist organization by both the US and Turkey. Initially presented as an immediate withdrawal, Trump in recent weeks has spoken about a more cautious schedule (reportedly in part in response to a request by Israel) giving the military four months to complete a safe and orderly withdrawal.

Bolton has urged Kurdish allies not to seek protection from Russian Federation or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.


In a statement, Ibrahim Kalin said: "The issue is PKK/PYD/YPG are making efforts to establish an order by oppressing Kurds, who don't obey them, and their terrorist activities against our country". He explained that the Islamic State was defeated and the USA completed its mission in Syria.

A Kurdish fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) died in the attack in the village of Al-Shaafa in Deir Ezzor province, one of the last pockets of territory still controlled by Daesh in the Euphrates River valley. Of the 64 that were named, the whereabouts or status of 28 were publicly unknown, more than 20 were believed to have died overseas, 12 were apprehended and three had returned to the US without facing charges.

It should be noted that the number of the USA military contingent in Afghanistan is 14,000.

Critics of the Syria withdrawal, including Sen.

The president provided no firm timetable on Sunday for a pullback, simply telling reporters, "It's going quickly".


During his trip Bolton is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Comments