WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday sought to end fears of an abrupt US pullout from Syria, saying the fight against the so-called Islamic State group was not over and that withdrawal would be done in a “prudent” manner.
“We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!” Trump tweeted.
The president has come under withering pressure both at home and in allied capitals after previous statements indicating that he considered the IS group vanquished and that he wanted US troops out of Syria imminently.
Trump’s new statement follows a trip by his national security adviser John Bolton to Israel in which he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that withdrawal would not happen before “ISIS is defeated and not able to revive itself”. The reassurances followed a diplomatic storm caused by Trump’s surprise announcement in December that appeared to signal a rapid withdrawal from Syria, where US special forces play an important role in supporting local forces fighting IS.
“We’ve won against ISIS,” he said at the time. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
In Monday’s statement, Trump complained that media coverage had skewed his original words, saying that his latest position on Syria was “no different from my original statements”.
Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in the Syria, which is in the grips of a complex civil war.
IS suicide bomber kills 5 in Raqa An suicide bomber attacked a centre for Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian city of Raqa on Monday, killing four civilians and an anti-jihadist fighter, a monitor said.
The attacker blew himself up after entering the centre run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“A suicide attacker wearing an explosives belt blew himself up inside a YPG centre after opening fire on a security checkpoint at its entrance,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. At least four civilians and a YPG fighter were killed in the attack, he added.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack they said targeted a “recruitment centre” for Kurdish forces.
“The attacker aimed at them with a machine gun then blew up his explosives vest in the middle of them,” it said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.