President Donald Trump on Monday sought to end fears of an abrupt US pullout from Syria, saying the fight against ISIS extremist group was not over and that withdrawal would be done in a “prudent” manner.
“We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!” Trump tweeted.
The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019
The president has come under withering pressure both at home and in allied capitals after previous statements indicating that he considered the ISIS group vanquished and that he wanted US troops out of Syria imminently.
Trump’s new statement follows a trip by his national security adviser John Bolton to Israel in which he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, that withdrawal would not happen before “ISIS is defeated and not able to revive itself.”
Meanwhile and in an interview with Fox News, White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said on Monday that: “The president hasn’t changed his position, as he mentioned his primary goal is to ensure the safety of our troops and the safety of our allies as well,” according to Reuters.
She added “And so the Department of Defense will come up with its operational plan to safely withdraw our troops.”
The reassurances followed a diplomatic storm caused by Trump’s surprise announcement in December that appeared to signal a rapid withdrawal from Syria, where US Special Forces play an important role in supporting local forces fighting ISIS.
“We’ve won against ISIS,” he said at the time. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Allies like Britain and France warned that ISIS was not defeated. Questions were also raised over the fate of Kurdish groups that have done much of the fighting alongside the United States in Syria, but now fear attacks from Turkey.
The initial pullout promise also sparked outspoken opposition from within Trump’s Republican Party and the resignation of defense secretary James Mattis.
In Monday’s statement, Trump complained that media coverage had skewed his original words, saying that his latest position on Syria was “no different from my original statements.”
Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in the Syria, which is in the grips of a complex civil war. Most of the US soldiers are there to train local forces fighting the hardcore-ISIS extremist group.