The Pentagon is preparing to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria by the end of April, even though the Trump administration has yet to come up with a plan to protect its Kurdish partners from attack when they leave, current and former U.S. officials said, Wall Street Journal informs.
With U.S.-backed fighters poised to seize the final Syrian sanctuaries held by Islamic State in the coming days, the U.S. military is turning its attention toward a withdrawal of forces in the coming weeks, these people said on Thursday.
Unless the Trump administration alters course, the military plans to pull a significant portion of its forces out by mid-March, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April, they said. Still, the military planning comes as the State Department maintains that there is no timetable for a withdrawal.
While President Donald Trump has put no firm deadline on withdrawing troops from Syria, he has directed the Pentagon to get all forces out of the country, an order that has led to the current U.S. military timeline to leave by the end of April.
The Trump administration has been struggling to come up with an agreement to protect Kurdish allies from being attacked by Turkish forces, the Journal notes.
The U.S. has been trying to work out a deal with Ankara on a political plan for northeastern Syria that would avert a destabilizing fight between Turkish forces and Kurdish forces in Syria that Turkey views as terrorists.
But the two sides have made little headway, current and former U.S. officials said, which means the U.S. military withdrawal is proceeding faster than the political track.
“The bottom line is: Decisions have to be made,” one U.S. official said. “At some point, we make political progress, or they’re going to have to tell the military to slow down, or we’re going to proceed without a political process.”
U.S. officials began briefing their European allies on the pullout from Syria this week in Washington when they came together for a conference to discuss the next chapter in the fight against Islamic State.
The U.S. military has more than 2,000 troops in Syria, where they are helping Kurdish and Arab fighters seize the final patch of Islamic State territory—and working on the withdrawal.
Under the working military plans, the U.S. would pull all troops out in the coming weeks—including about 200 Americans working out of a base in southern Syria that has served as an informal check on Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the region, the current and former U.S. officials said.