USA policy toward fighting Islamic State in Syria unchanged

'Netanyahu, Trump clash over Syria early withdrawal plan'

The rebels must "submit to the condition of the Syrian state: the abductees in exchange for a halt of the military operation", a reporter with al-Ikhbariya said.

A precipitous withdrawal "would send a frightening message" to the entire region, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government representative to the U.S., said at a conference recently held at the United States Institute of Peace.

Just on Friday, the Pentagon sounded differently from Trump, saying the American military plans in Syria remained unchanged. At the same time, Washington appealed to "countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges". Kenneth McKenzie Jr., Director of Joint Staff, said according to the U.S. Department of Defence.

But at the same time, Trump's insistence on a Syria drawdown also reflects a shift in focus to Asia and the North Korea challenge, he adds.

Yet whether Trump's decision means USA troops will be out of Syria within months or still on the ground in a year, the signal he is sending has been heard by the long list of players in the Syrian conflict and will have implications for regional winners and losers.

Urging him to slow down, Trump's aides have been emphasizing that IS fighters remain active in Syria, evidence that Trump's own, publicly stated objective-the total defeat of IS-has yet to be met. Officials said the USA is tracking two pockets where IS remains viable-one in the Middle Euphrates River Valley region, another along the Iraq-Syria border.

In Syria, however, the USA made a decision to create bases in Kurdish-controlled areas taken back by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is comprised mainly of Kurds and Arab fighters.

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No NATO country lost more from a destabilized Syria than Turkey. The Trump administration drove the Islamic State from its strongholds by working with Kurdish proxies despised by Turkey. Turkey says its occupation of Syria is to create a buffer against further Kurdish attacks into Turkey, and to hand over to the Assad government those areas it takes from the Kurds.

A picture taken on April 3, 2018 shows US-led coalition vehicles driving in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Even if there's little chance of a traditional "victory" in places like Syria and Afghanistan, Trump is realizing that a withdrawal could undermine other objectives - like the defeat of the Islamic State or the containment of Iran.

It would also, they warn, cede the east completely to Damascus' allies Russian Federation and Iran, which have set up a series of bases in the country during seven years of war.

Pentagon officials say that not only has nothing actually changed, but that there is no timeline for leaving the country, meaning this is not a temporary extension of the war, but a complete abrogation of the pullout plan. According to this interpretation, he no longer feels constrained by subordinates-such as outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster-who have annoyed Trump with advice counseling him to go in some other direction.

The IS militants kept a sliver of territory along the Euphrates River near Boukamal, and some nebulous zones of control in the desert of eastern Syria and on the border with Iraq - but nothing that seemed beyond containment. Moreover, Obama also used the USA military to block the Islamic State* terror group's direct threat to the Kurds in northeast Iraq, Brenner added.

Russian Federation has been propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad for years, with increasing help from Iranian-backed Shiite militias such as Hezbollah - to the dismay of USA allies such as Israel.

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