Syria conflict: Bolton says United States withdrawal is conditional

Clay Curtis
January 7, 2019

Kalın's comments came after White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, speaking about the US -backed YPG, said he would stress in talks with Turkish officials this week, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that the Kurds must be safeguarded.

He also stressed there was no set timetable for United States withdrawal from Syria, adding that Washington was not interested in maintaining a long-term military presence in the country.

Kurdish-led forces control a large swathe of Syria's north and northeast, some of it seized from the Islamic State group.

Earlier on Sunday, Bolton said the US will not withdraw troops from northeastern Syria until Turkish government guarantees fight against Daesh and that it won't attack "Kurdish fighters", referring to YPG/PKK terrorist group.

The move shocked USA allies and American defence officials alike, with U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis and a top USA official in the fight against so-called Islamic State, Brett McGurk, resigning soon after.

The announcement has concerned Israel and other USA allies in the region, and Trump has since spoken of "slowly" sending troops home "over a period of time".

Bolton was due to hold talks later on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the discussions would focus on Iran's role in the region and the situation in Syria.

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America's Syria pointman James Jeffrey will also serve as the United States envoy to the global coalition against ISIS extremist group, the State Department said on Friday.

US President Donald Trump's decision last month to leave Syria has exposed the Kurdish group to possible Turkish attacks.

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Bolton made the remarks in Jerusalem on a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey.

"There is no doubt that a terror group can not be an ally of the US", Kalin said.

Two Americans have been captured among a group of five ISIS fighters in eastern Syria, according to a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces.

According to Bolton, US President Donald Trump told him that he would "not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds". If the U.S. leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it - and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening.

Bolton said in Israel that the US would pull out only after its troops had rooted out what's left of ISIL in Syria and after the administration had reached an agreement with Turkey to protect Kurdish militias who have fought alongside Americans against the extremists.

Bolton also said all 2,000 USA forces may not be pulled out, according to the report. He said that in meetings with Turkish counterparts, he will seek "to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain".

When he first announced the move in the middle of December, he said: "They're all coming back and they're coming back now".

'I think they know who their friends are, ' he added. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it's justified by the president's Constitutional authority, adding "I'm a strong believer in Article II".

The prime minister added that he meant to discuss a number of important issues with US National Security Adviser John Bolton later in the day.

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