US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States would get out of Syria slowly “over a period of time” and would protect the US-backed Kurdish fighters in the country as Washington draws down troops.
Trump did not provide a timetable for the planned military exit from Syria, which he announced last month against the advice of top national security aides and without consulting lawmakers or US allies participating in anti-ISIS operations.
The decision prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign. Trump said on Wednesday he had essentially fired Mattis, whose letter of resignation was seen as a sharp rebuke to the Republican president.
During a Cabinet meeting at the White House in front of reporters, Trump said he had never set a reported four-month timetable for the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops stationed in Syria amid a battle against ISIS militants.
“We’re getting out and we’re getting out smart,” Trump said. “I never said I’m getting out tomorrow.” He declined to be specific about how long troops would remain in Syria.
In recent days, Trump appeared to back off from any hasty pullout and stressed that the operation would be slow. “We’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants,” he said on Twitter on Monday.
Trump: No timetable for US withdrawal from Syria