Bolton dials back Trump’s vow to withdraw US troops from Syria
President Trump will not withdraw US troops in Syria without assurances from Turkey that it won’t attack the Kurdish troops helping the United States fight ISIS, National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday.
Bolton’s comments come just three weeks after Trump announced he would immediately withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, a decision that was widely condemned even by some members of the president’s own party.
Bolton seemed intent on reframing the move Sunday, speaking with reporters while in Israel.
“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said, according to NBC.
“This is a cause and effect mission. Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable.”
Although Trump said he would remove U.S. troops from the country entirely, Bolton indicated Sunday that some American forces would remain in the southern part of the country.
“The primary point is we are going to withdraw from northeastern Syria,” Bolton said. “So it’s going to be a different environment after we leave, there is no question about that.”
Trump’s announcement that he would immediately withdraw troops from Syria did not sit well in Israel, Washington’s closely ally in the Middle East.
“This leaves us alone in the arena with the Russians,” Michael Herzog, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Israeli defense official told The New York Times last month.
“We are alone in the battle against Iran in Syria.”
The Times also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught by surprise when Trump decided to pull troops out of Syria, but Netanyahu reportedly happily welcomed Bolton Sunday.
After leaving Israel, Bolton will travel to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton said Sunday.
“At a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”