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John Bolton: US troops will not leave Syria until safety of Kurds is assured

This article originally appeared in The Telegraph.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

John Bolton, the US National Security adviser, said on Sunday that American soldiers would not leave Syria until there was an assurance from Turkey that Kurds in the north of the country would be safe.

In what appeared to indicate a slowdown of the withdrawal, announced hastily by Donald Trump last month, Mr Bolton said the US leader is seeking a commitment from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, that the American allies would be protected.

Speaking to journalists travelling with him in Israel prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said that this was one of several conditions that must first be met before troops were brought home.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” he said.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that is not fully co-ordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

In December, Mr Trump said he was pulling out of Syria, claiming ISIS had been defeated. There were concerns that the Kurds, key partners in the US fight against ISIS, would be in grave danger. Turkey regards them as terrorists.

At the time, the American leader, said:  “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.”

But yesterday Mr Bolton said there was no timetable for a US withdrawal, and in an apparent volte-face, said some level of US troop presence would remain in the south of the country.

“This is a cause and effect mission. Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable.”

“The primary point is we are going to withdraw from northeastern Syria,” he said.

“So it’s going to be a different environment after we leave, there is no question about that. But there is no desire to see Iran’s influence spread that’s for sure.”

This article originally appeared in The Telegraph.

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