The US currently has about 2,000 troops in the war-torn country [File: Handout/Marine Corps/Gabino Perez/AP Photo]
Published in AlJazeera, on Jan 03rd, 2019,
US president says he is firm over US troops withdrawal, adding that Washington will protect the Kurds in Syria.
Trump also said on Wednesday that his country would protect the US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, without giving a timetable for US troops withdrawal.
The US leader announced his decision to withdraw from the country last month against the advice of his top national security aides and without consulting members of the US Congress or allies fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
The move prompted Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to resign shortly after.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Trump said 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 ISIL.
“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 [Islamic State] remnants,” he said on Twitter on Monday.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he came out of a recent lunch with Trump feeling reassured about the Syria policy.
Graham told reporters that Trump was committed to making sure Turkey did not clash with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces once US troops leave Syria and was assuring the NATO ally that it would have a buffer zone in the region to help protect its own interests.
Ankara views YPG as a “terrorist” organisation and claims the group is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged attacks on Turkish soil since the 1980s as they sought autonomy.
US commanders planning the withdrawal are recommend that YPG fighters battling ISIL be allowed to keep US-supplied weapons, according to Washington officials.
That proposal would likely anger Turkey, where Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, is expected to hold talks in the coming days.
“I didn’t like the fact that they’re selling the small (amount of) oil that they have to Iran, and we asked them not to sell it to Iran… We’re not thrilled about that. OK? I’m not happy about it at all,” he said.
“We want to protect the Kurds, nevertheless. We want to protect the Kurds, but I don’t want to be in Syria forever. It’s sand. And it’s death.”
Trump has been critical of previous administrations for sending and keeping US troops abroad, and has made bringing troops home part of his signature “America First” policy as he eyes a re-election bid in 2020.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES