The U.S. military has begun withdrawing some cargo but none of the roughly 2,000 troops from Syria, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on Friday.
It is the latest move in the military's on-again, off-again withdrawal from Syria, which President Donald Trump first announced on Dec. 19. Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly so incensed that the U.S. military was abandoning its Kurdish allies in Syria that he resigned the next day.
The president initially claimed that ISIS in Syria had defeated and U.S. troops would leave rapidly. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back; and they're coming back now,” Trump said in a Dec. 19 video posted on Twitter.
Since then, the president has insisted that he never gave a time line for pulling all U.S. troops from Syria and National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton said this week that the U.S. military would only leave Syria if Turkey guaranteed the safety of Kurds there – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to meet Bolton over this issue.
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday morning.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both of her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down, issued a statement on Friday criticizing the president's approach to Syria.
“It's clear the Trump administration has no unified strategy and that's putting our military in a very difficult situation as they try to carry out and execute the president's orders,” said Duckworth (D-Ill.) “Despite President Trump telling the American people that 'We have won against ISIS,' the U.S. military appears to disagree with his assessment and clearly believes the fight against ISIS must continue.
“That is why I am alarmed about how a rushed withdrawal without conditions could empower ISIS and endanger our Kurdish allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces. I have seen no real plans to prevent Turkey from attacking the Kurdish forces that have been our most effective and reliable allies in an unstable region. They have served alongside our military combatting ISIS and betraying them would be disgraceful.”
UPDATE: This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. on Jan. 11 with Sen. Tammy Duckworth's comments.