In private, Trump has figured out about Syria pullout weeks

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s unscripted comment this week about to withdraw from Syria “very soon”, while it violates its own policies, not a one-off: For weeks, top advisers are fretting about an all-too-hasty withdrawal, if the president more and more told them privately he wants, AMERICAN officials said.

Just two months ago, Trump of the employees thought that they would have persuaded him that the USA needed for its presence in Syria of open-ended — not only because the Islamic State the group is not yet completely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum would be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump has signed a major speech in January in which Secretary of state Rex Tillerson explained the new strategy and stated, “it is of vital importance to the United States to remain active in Syria.”

But in mid-February, Trump was telling of his top aides, in meetings, as quickly as possible, victory can be declared against, he wanted the Us troops out Syria, said the officials. Alarm bells went off at the State Department and the Pentagon, where officials are planning for a methodical and gradual shift from a military operation under the leadership of a diplomatic mission to start the reconstruction of basic infrastructure, such as roads and sewage system in the war-wracked country.

The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.

Trump’s first public suggestion he was itching to pull out came in a press conference with the visit of the Australian prime Minister, Alastair Campbell on Feb. 23, as Trump said the U.S. was in Syria to “get rid of ISIS and go home.” On Thursday, in a domestic political speech in Ohio, Trump went even further.

“We’ll be coming out of Syria, such as, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very fast — very fast, we’re coming out,” Trump said.

The public statement of the prisoners of the US dept of homeland security off-guard and not sure whether He was officially announcing a new, unexpected change in the policy. Inundated by questions from journalists and foreign officials, the Pentagon and the State Department reached out to the White House, the National Security Council for the clarification.

The White House, and the ambiguous response, the officials said, Trump’s words speak for themselves.

“The mission of the Ministry of Defence to defeat ISIS is not changed,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for the Pentagon.

Still, without a clear directive from the president, the planning has not yet begun for a withdrawal of Syria, the officials said, and Trump has not called for a specific timetable.

For Trump, who is on an “America First” mantra, Syria is just the latest foreign arena where his impulse is to restrict the AMERICAN role. As with the NATO and the United Nations, Trump has called for other governments to step up and share more of the burden so that Washington doesn’t foot the bill. His administration is crisscrossing the globe in search of the financial commitments from other countries to fund the reconstruction in both Syria and Iraq, but only with limited success.

But it is unclear how Trump’s impulse to pull out can be affected by recent staff shake-ups on his national security team. Tillerson and former national security advisor, H. R. McMaster, both advocates for keeping a US presence in Syria, were recently fired, creating questions about the life of the plan Tillerson announced in his Stanford University speech in January. But Trump also replaced McMaster with John Bolton, a vocal advocate for the AMERICAN intervention and aggressive use of the military abroad.

The abrupt change in the president’s thinking has drawn concern both within and outside the United States.

Other countries that the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS the fear that Trump’s impulse to withdraw hastily would be the infamous resourceful IS militants to regroup, several European diplomats said. That concern was exacerbated by the fact that the US-backed ground operations against remaining IS fighters in Syria earlier this month.

The ground operations had to be interrupted because the Kurdish fighters who have been in the forefront of the campaign against IS shifted to a separate battle with the Turkish troops, who began combat operations in the town of Afrin against the Kurds, who are considered by Ankara to be terrorists that constitute a threat for Turkey.

“This is a serious and growing concern,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said this month.

More than just the beat, there are other US strategic objectives that may be jeopardized by a hasty withdrawal, the officials said, especially with regard to Russia and Iran.

Israel, America’s best middle east ally, and other regional countries, 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, Syria. The AMERICAN military presence in Syria was seen as a buffer against non-controlled Iranian activity, and in particular against Tehran, the desire to have a contiguous land route from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.

An American withdrawal would also likely to cede Syria to Russia, along with Iran’s support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops and would certainly fill the void left by the US That the prospect has alarmed countries such as France, which has historical links with the Levant.

In calling for a withdrawal “very soon” Trump can be too optimistic in his assessment of how quickly the anti-campaign can be wrapped up, the officials said. Although the group is the result of basically all of the territory once controlled in Iraq, and 95 percent of his former territory in Syria, the remaining five percent is becoming increasingly difficult to clear and can take months, officials said.


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

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