Syria conflict: Bolton says US withdrawal is conditional

Charlene Craig
January 8, 2019

White House national security adviser John Bolton added a new condition on Sunday to the USA withdrawal from Syria, saying Turkey must agree to protect the United States' Kurdish allies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with the US National Security Adviser John Bolton, during a statement to the media follow their meeting in Jerusalem, on January 6, 2019.

His visit comes a day after Bolton said guarantees about the safety of the Kurds were a "condition" of the withdrawal of about 2,000 troops in the region that President Donald Trump ordered last month.

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.

He also acknowledged that pockets of the Islamic State remained undefeated and that a quick USA pullout could endanger U.S. partners and allies in the region, as well as American forces themselves.

"There is no doubt that a terror group can not be an ally of the U.S.", Kalın said, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. "They said again, recently, 'Can we have more time?' " Trump said of U.S. generals.

"We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw but to do so in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again", Mr Bolton said.

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Among the policy decisions still to be made was what to do about the tens of thousands of Syrian Kurdish fighters that U.S. forces had trained, armed and advised to carry out the ground war against the Islamic State.

The State Department said Israel will continue to receive U.S. support in its fight against "Iranian regional actors". In meetings with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other officials, they are expected to warn against an offensive targeting the Kurdish fighters in Syria.

National security adviser John Bolton, who is in Israel for talks, has also indicated a more gradual withdrawal.

Mr Bolton said on Sunday that "the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement".

But he said Mr Trump's position was Turkey may not kill the Kurds and that the USA withdrawal would not take place without an agreement on that.

Turkey reportedly demands United States air support for any efforts against Daesh in areas along Syria's border with Iraq.

Bolton on Sunday also toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.

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"Tomorrow, if weather permits, we'll go up to the Golan Heights".

"I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out", said U.S. Sen.

Netanyahu also noted that the United States has also backed Israel's right to defend herself, "which we exercise constantly", he said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said they "do not comment on special forces".

The move shocked U.S. allies and American defence officials alike, with USA defence secretary Jim Mattis and a top United States official in the fight against IS, Brett McGurk, resigning soon after.

"Our position is clear - we continue to act against the Iranian military buildup in Syria, including in these days, and we are acting against anyone who undermines or tries to undermine Israel's security", Netanyahu said.

Ziya Meral, director of the London and Beirut-based Centre on Religion and Global Affairs, said it would be "naive" for the USA to expect Turkey not to "interfere" in Syria while the YPG remained in control across the border.

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