President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday that the American military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group and on Turkey assuring the safety of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.
John Bolton said there is no timetable for the pullout, but insisted the military presence is not an unlimited commitment.
“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem before heading to Turkey on Monday, where he will be joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”
Those conditions, he said, included defeating what’s left of IS in Syria and protecting Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group.
Bolton’s comments were the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed. Trump had faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, announced in mid-December, that he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.