President Donald Trump wants to ensure the safety of U.S. troops as they withdraw from Syria and has not changed his position removing the forces, the White House said on Monday, a day after his national security adviser outlined conditions for withdrawal that could take months.
“The president hasn’t changed his position, as he mentioned his primary goal is to ensure the safety of our troops and the safety of our allies as well,” White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News. “And so the Department of Defense will come up with its operational plan to safely withdraw our troops.”
On Sunday, White House national security adviser John Bolton added a new condition to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, saying Turkey must agree to protect the United States’ Kurdish allies.
Trump on Sunday reiterated that the United States would be pulling its troops out of Syria but suggested the move might not happen soon. Trump’s abrupt decision to announce a U.S. pullout left many questions open, chiefly whether Kurdish fighters who had been operating in northern Syria alongside U.S. forces would now be attacked by their long-time enemy, Turkey.
On a December visit to a U.S. air base in Iraq, Trump said that military commanders had repeatedly requested extensions for the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria – requests that he finally turned down because he said Islamic State was largely beaten.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and David Alexander; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Franklin Paul)