Top Turkish, US diplomats discuss Syria after Trump's vow for withdrawal
Turkey’s foreign minister held a phone call on Dec. 19 with his U.S. counterpart after Washington signaled that it would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, said Turkish diplomatic sources.
The phone conversation between Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Mike Pompeo came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S.-led coalition has succeeded in militarily defeating ISIL, suggesting that a withdrawal of U.S. troops was imminent.
"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump said on Twitter, using another name for ISIL.
The announcement follows reports that the U.S. is preparing to withdraw its roughly 2,000 troops from northeastern Syria, where it has been working to defeat ISIL.
Trump had previously voiced his intent to leave Syria but faced pushback from the Pentagon's top brass and some of his top officials who had sought to maintain the U.S.'s military presence in the country until Iranian forces exited.
The White House appeared to confirm the U.S.’s departure, stressing that military victories against ISIL 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 steps of this campaign," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
"The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary."
But the statement leaves unclear the extent of the withdrawal as well as its timeline. Reports suggested that all State Department personnel would depart Syria within the next 24 hours while U.S. forces would leave within 60 to 100 days