The United States has started to withdraw its troops from Syria, the White House said on Wednesday, asserting that it has been able to defeat the Islamic State in the strife-torn country.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump tweeted soon after which the White House announced that its troops have started returning from Syria.
“Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
She said the United States troops have started returning home.
“The US and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders,” she said.
The Pentagon declined to give any comment immediately.
“At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Col Rob Manning said when asked whether the US military is preparing for a full withdrawal of forces in northeast Syria.
The Wall Street Journal described it as a abrupt decision by the Trump Administration.
“US officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin immediately pulling American forces out of the region, where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State,” the daily said, quoting unnamed official.
Several US lawmakers warned the Trump Administration that this was a grave error.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that the full and rapid withdrawal from Syria is a grave error with broader implications beyond just the fight against IS.
“The President’s tweet is dangerous, premature and wholly inconsistent with the facts on the ground in Syria and our military’s advice. I have travelled to Syria to review our mission, and our military has performed well beyond expectations,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Shaheen said he is very concerned that “an ill-informed and hasty withdrawal” of troops will “breathe new life into ISIS” and other terrorist groups and cede America’s leadership role to Russia, Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.