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Home / World / In private Trump has been thinking for weeks about the withdrawal of Syria

In private Trump has been thinking for weeks about the withdrawal of Syria

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's preliminary remark this week about the withdrawal of Syria "very soon", while disagreeing with his own policy, was not an isolated one: for weeks, top consultants have Worried about a hasty retreat, as the president has increasingly privately told them he wants to get out, US officials said.

Just two months ago, Trump's helpers thought they had convinced him that the US should keep it. The presence in Syria is open ̵

1; not only because the Islamic State group still needs to be completely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum could be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump made a big speech in January in which Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson set out the new strategy, stating, "It is vital for the United States to continue to engage in Syria." But in mid-February, Trump top consultants said in meetings that, once the victory against IS can be declared, he wanted American troops from Syria, officials said. Alarm bells were rung in the State Department and the Pentagon. There officials planned a gradual methodological transition from a military operation to a diplomatic mission to begin rebuilding basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers in the war-torn country. 19659005] The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

In a statement that Trump is serious about reversing its course and withdrawing from Syria, the White House has allocated around $ 200 million this week for stabilization projects in Syria, officials said. The money spent by the State Department on infrastructure projects such as electricity, water and roads was announced by outgoing Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson at an aid conference in Kuwait last month.

Officials first said the Hold reported by The Wall Street Journal is not necessarily permanent and will be discussed next week at high-level interinstitutional meetings.

The State Department said it continually reviews appropriate levels of support and how they could best be used. And the agency said it would continue to work with the international community, coalition members and our local partners to provide the stabilizing areas in Syria with the necessary stabilization support.

"The United States is working every day on the ground and with the international community to stabilize the areas liberated from IS and find ways to drive reconstruction as soon as a peaceful political transition has taken place from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad

Trump's first public offer he sought to break was a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Alastair Campbell on 23 February, when Trump said the US was in Syria to "get rid" of ISIS and go home. "On Thursday Trump continued his speech in Ohio.

" We will be from Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon – we're coming out very soon, "said Trump.

The public statement caught the US National Security Agency unprepared and was not sure if Trump was officially announcing a new, unexpected change in policy, swamped with requests from journalists and foreign officials, the Pentagon and the State Department have commented on clarifying the White House National Security Council.

The White House's ambiguous response was, "Trump's words speak for themselves."

"The Ministry of Defense mission Defeating IS has not changed, "said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.

Yet, without a clear statement from the President, planning for a withdrawal from Syria has not yet begun, officials said. and Trump has not spoken out on a specific timetable.

For Trump, who calls himself an America First Man Syria is only the last foreign arena in which its impulse was to limit the US role. As with NATO and the United Nations, Trump has called on other governments to step up and share more of the burden so that Washington can not pay the bill. His government crossed the globe and sought financial pledges from other countries to finance reconstruction in both Syria and Iraq, but with limited success.

However, it is unclear how Trump's impulse to retreat could be influenced by recent personnel revisions by his national security team. Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, both advocates of maintaining a US presence in Syria, were recently fired, raising questions about the longevity of the plan that Tillerson had announced in his speech at Stanford University in January. But Trump also replaced McMaster with John Bolton, a vociferous advocate of US intervention and the aggressive use of the military overseas.

The abrupt change in President's thinking has caused concern both inside and outside the United States.

The US-led coalition that fights IS fears that Trump's impulse to pull out hastily would allow the notoriously resourceful IS militants to regroup, said several European diplomats. This concern was compounded by the fact that US-supported ground operations against the remaining IS militias in Syria were suspended earlier this month.

Ground operations had to be suspended because Kurdish fighters who had led the campaign against IS were moved to a separate battle with Turkish troops fighting in the city of Afrin against Kurds, who are considered terrorists by Ankara threaten the security of Turkey.

"This is a serious and growing concern," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this month.

Beyond the IS, there are other strategic US targets that could be jeopardized by a hasty retreat and Iran.

Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East, and other regional nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are deeply concerned about the influence of Iran and its allies, including the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in Syria. The US military presence in Syria was seen as a buffer against uncontrolled Iranian activities, in particular against Tehran's desire to build a cohesive land route from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.

An American withdrawal would probably also relinquish Syria to Russia, which together with Iran will support the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and will certainly fill the gap left by the US. This prospect has worried countries like France, which has historical links with the Levant.

Calling for a retreat "very soon," Trump could be too optimistic in his assessment of how quickly the anti-IS campaign can be completed, officials said. Although the group was essentially expelled from all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and 95 percent of its former territory in Syria, the remaining five percent are becoming increasingly difficult to clear and could take many months, officials said.


Associated Press authors Robert Burns and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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