The U.S. military wants to exit Syria by the end of April, according to a new report.
Current military plans call for a large withdrawal by the middle of March, followed by a complete withdrawal by the end of April, current and former U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal. However, a key concern for the U.S.’s Kurdish partners has yet to be addressed: Striking a deal to safeguard Kurdish allies from Turkish forces after the U.S. vacates Syria.
Although the U.S. is attempting to negotiate with Turkey a proposal that would prevent conflict between Kurdish forces and Turkey, little progress has been made so far. Turkey considers some of the Kurdish forces in Syria terrorists.
“The bottom line is: Decisions have to be made,” a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal. “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.”
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment to the Washington Examiner.
“We are not discussing the timeline of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
The report comes days after Gen. Joseph Votel, the outgoing head of U.S. Central Command, said he is “not under pressure to be out by a specific date, and I have not had any specific conditions put upon me” regarding a Syria withdrawal.
“I don’t consider this to be either time-based or conditions-based. The fact is the president made a decision, and we are going to execute his orders here to withdraw all forces from Syria,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“We are going to consider things like protection of our partners, the Kurds. We are going to consider the concerns that Turkey has along their border, and we are going to consider how we keep pressure on ISIS,” he said. “I look at this as an additional task within the confines of the current campaign plan that we’re operating, and that’s how we are approaching it.”
President Trump announced in December that the Islamic State had been defeated and that troops would withdraw from the region — a decision that factored into former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ resignation.
Trump reiterated during his State of the Union address this week that it was time for the U.S. to pull troops from Syria, and stressed “great nations do not fight endless wars.”
“Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home,” Trump said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog issued a report earlier this week warning that “absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain territory in the middle Euphrates River valley.”