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

USA says no timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

USA says no timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

US President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Sunday set out conditions for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, saying the defence of allies must first be assured.

He also stressed there was no set timetable for United States withdrawal from Syria, adding that Washington was not interested in maintaining a long-term military presence in the country.

United States National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned the Syrian government it should not see the impending USA military withdrawal from the country as an invitation to use chemical weapons.

The move shocked USA allies and American defence officials alike, with U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis and a top United States official in the fight against IS, Brett McGurk, resigning soon after.

Trump's decision last month drew widespread criticism from allies, led to the resignation of U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurdish fighters.

Bolton was expected to explain that some US troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that the al-Tanf base would remain.

Assad has denied the use of chemical attacks, blaming rebels in Syria for staging chemical attacks as to provoke a response from the US-led coalition, while Russian Federation said it had proof that the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria's Eastern Ghouta was staged on orders from London.

"The US' foreign policy has been in disarray ever since Trump has become president", he told Al Jazeera.

Trump has made clear that he would not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds, Bolton said.

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"That a terror organization can not be allied with the U.S.is self-evident", he said.

At least one fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces is believed to have been killed and a number of others wounded.

"As we elaborate how the (U.S. troop) withdrawal is going to occur and the circumstances, we don't want the Assad regime to see what we do as representing any diminution in our opposition to the use of weapons of mass destruction", Bolton said on Saturday.

Ahead of his meeting with Turkish officials on Monday, Bolton said he will seek 'to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain'.

"One aim of Turkey's fight against the PKK and its Syrian extensions is to rescue the Kurds from the cruelty and oppression of this terrorist group", he added.

Asked whether a US withdrawal would not take place in Syria until Turkey guaranteed the Kurdish fighters would be safe, Bolton said: "Basically, that's right".

"I think they know who their friends are", he said.

Those conditions, he said, included the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protections for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside USA troops against the extremist group.

America's Kurdish allies in north-east Syria were left feeling exposed as Turkey, which regards them as terrorists, appeared poised to move against them. Bolton was expected to explain that some United States troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that the al-Tanf base would remain.

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