Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Bolton warns Turkey against attacking Kurdish fighters after United States pullout from Syria

Bolton warns Turkey against attacking Kurdish fighters after United States pullout from Syria

U.S. forces will not pull out from Syria until Turkey guarantees the safety of US-backed Kurdish militias, National Security Adviser John Bolton has said, as cited by AP.

Trump announced in mid-December that the United States will withdraw all of its 2,000 troops in Syria.

Trump's advisers and GOP allies have warned that pulling out U.S. troops would also leave Kurdish fighters - who had been vital allies - susceptible to attacks by Turkey, where leaders see the group as a threat to their nation's sovereignty.

Bolton also said all 2,000 U.S. forces may not be pulled out, according to the report.

And it would be carried out in such a way as to "make sure that the defence of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured, and to take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups", he said.

US President Donald Trump's decision last month to leave Syria has exposed the Kurdish group to possible Turkish attacks.

Bolton, who traveled to Israel to reassure the USA ally of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, said there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insisted it's not an unlimited commitment.

Standing next to Bolton, Netanyahu praised Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and for standing up for the Jewish state in global forums.

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Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Israel was particularly concerned about the presence of Iranian-backed militias near its border with Syria, "particularly that of Hezbollah", a Lebanese Shia movement.

"One can debate the merits and wisdom of the long-term USA presence in north-east Syria", he said, "but certainly the way it was announced and the chaos that followed - with the resignation of [Defence Secretary James] Mattis and [Syria Special Envoy Brett] McGurk - really played to the advantage of the adversaries of the United States and the West".

"We don't want ISIS to rise again and be a transnational terrorist threat and we don't want our allies, the Kurds, to be slaughtered by Erdogan in Turkey", said Smith, D-Wash.

Bolton said US troops would remain at the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region.

The U.S.is also seeking a "satisfactory disposition" for roughly 800 IS prisoners held by the U.S. -backed Syrian opposition, Bolton said, adding talks were ongoing with European and regional partners about the issue. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it's justified by the president's constitutional authority, adding "I'm a strong believer in Article II".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would continue to confront Iran's military activities in Syria.

Bolton visited the Western Wall earlier in the day.

Trump himself has more recently spoken of "slowly" sending troops home "over a period of time", and Bolton laid out some of the conditions required before it takes place.

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