United States military said that the order to withdraw American troops from Syria has been signed,, after President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart agreed to prevent a power vacuum in the wake of the controversial move.
The announcement that US troops would leave the civil war-racked country — where they have been deployed to assist in the multinational fight against the militant Daesh (IS) group — shocked global partners and American politicians alike.
“The execute order for Syria has been signed,” a US military spokesperson told AFP when asked about the withdrawal order, without providing further details.
Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target US-allied Kurdish fighters who have played a major role in the war against IS but are deemed terrorists by Ankara.
Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday and “agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria”, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Late on Sunday, Trump tweeted that Erdogan had assured him that any remaining ISIS fighters in Syria will be eliminated.
“President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria,” Trump said in a tweet around midnight on Sunday, using another acronym for the militant group.
Repeating a pattern of admiring comments towards global strongmen, Trump added that Erdogan “is a man who can do it”. The US president concluded: “Our troops are coming home!”
Hours earlier, Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed (IS), our mutual involvement in Syria, and the slow and highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area”.
US politicians — including those from his own Republican party — and international allies fear the withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 US troops is premature and would further destabilise the already devastated region.
A US withdrawal, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way “for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin”.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable”.
New Pentagon chief
US troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.
Several US politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that IS or Daesh had been defeated, and the decision also caused alarm and dismay in the US military over the prospect of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.