The United States is preparing to rapidly withdraw all 2,000 troops in northeastern Syria as soon as Kurdish and Arab forces drive ISIS from its last enclave, President Trump announced on Wednesday.
- In a brief video posted on Twitter, the president declared victory against ISIS and said it is time to bring U.S. troops home.
- “I get very saddened when I have to write letters or call parents or wives or husbands of soldiers who have been killed fighting for our country,” Trump said. “It’s a great honor; we cherish them; but it’s heart-breaking.”
- The president repeated that ISIS has been defeated thanks to the sacrifices of fallen troops. “We won, and that’s the way we want it,” Trump said as he pointed toward heaven, “and that’s the way they want it.”
- Top Trump administration officials decided on Tuesday that all U.S. troops would leave Syria, according to the Washington Post, which cited an unnamed defense official. The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the troop withdrawal.
- President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that the U.S. military's mission in Syria has been accomplished: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”
- White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued announced in a statement on Wednesday that U.S. troops in Syria have already begun redeploying: “Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the global coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.
- “The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”
- Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed on Wednesday that U.S. military has begun to draw down its forces in Syria.
- “The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over,” White said. “We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.
- “For force protection and operational security reasons we will not provide further details. We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates.”
- In August, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that U.S. troops would remain in Syria until diplomatic efforts to peacefully end that country’s civil war showed progress.
- “We need the Geneva process, the U.N.-recognized process to start making traction towards solving this war,” Mattis told reporters at an Aug. 28 news briefing. “Now, if the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to deny ISIS a return, but it really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of [Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s] making.”
- News about the pending departure of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria comes amid signs of a wider rapprochement between the United States and Turkey, which views Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists.
- The Defense Department has notified Congress that it has approved the sale of Patriot missiles to Turkey, which had been flirting with buying Russian S-400 missiles, and President Trump has told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he will consider extraditing cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdoğan blames for a 2016 coup.
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UPDATE: This story was updated at 6:35 P.M. on Dec. 19 to include comments from President Trump.