WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's unspoken remark this week about withdrawing from Syria "very soon," while disagreeing with his own policies, was not an isolated case: for weeks, top advisers are worried about being overhasty Retreat as the president increasingly told them privately that he wanted to get out, US officials said.
Just two months ago, Trump's helpers believed they had convinced him that the US needed to keep its presence open in Syria – not only because the Islamic State group was not completely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum of other extremist groups or could be filled in 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 told top advisers in sessions that, once the win 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. 19659004] In a statement that Trump is serious about reversing its course and withdrawing from Syria, the White House has frozen about $ 200 million in US funding for stabilization projects in Syria this week. 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 cargo space reported by the Wall Street Journal is not necessarily permanent and will be discussed next week at high-level interinstitutional meetings.
The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.
The State Department said it is continually reviewing appropriate levels of support and how they can best be used. And the agency said it continues to work with the international community, coalition members and our local partners to provide much-needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria.
"The United States is working on-site and with the international community on a daily basis to stabilize the areas liberated from ISIS and to find ways to drive reconstruction as soon as there is a peaceful political transition from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad "says the Foreign Ministry.
Trump's first public offer he sought to crack was a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Alastair Campbell on February 23, when Trump said the US was in Syria to "get rid of ISIS and go home." On Thursday, Trump continued in a domestic speech in Ohio.
"We will be from Syria very soon, let the other people take care of it now Very soon – very soon, we" It's coming out, "said Trump.
The public statement caught the US intelligence agencies unprepared and was not sure if Trump was officially announcing a new, unexpected change in policy, swamped by inquiries from journalists and foreign officials, the Pentagon and the State Department contacted the White House National Security Council for clarification.
The ambiguous response of the Whites House, officials said: Trump's words speak for themselves.
"The Defense Department's defense has not changed," said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.
Nevertheless, without a clear mandate from the President, planning for a withdrawal from Syria has not begun, officials and Trump have not said for a specific timetable.
For Trump, who championed an America-first mantra, Syria is only the last foreign arena where its impulse threatens 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 is crossing the globe seeking financial pledges from other countries to finance reconstruction in Syria and Iraq, but with limited success.
However, it is unclear how Trump's impulse to retreat could be influenced by the recent personnel changes 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 of thinking of the President 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 militia in Syria were suspended earlier this month.
Ground operations had to be suspended because Kurdish fighters who led the campaign against IS were postponed to a separate battle with Turkish troops fighting in the city of Afrin against Kurds, who are considered terrorists by Ankara, which threaten the security of Turkey.
"This is a serious and growing concern," State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert This month
there are other US strategic goals that could be jeopardized by a hasty retreat, officials said, especially those involving Russia
Israel, America's closest Middle East ally 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 contiguous highway from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.
An American withdrawal would probably also relinquish Syria to Russia, which together with Iran would support the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and would 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 withdrawal "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 have contributed to this report.