The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw all of its forces from Syria by the end of April, the Wall Street Journal has reported on Feb. 7.
Citing former and current U.S. officials, the newspaper reported that unless the Trump administration changed course, the military plans to pull a significant portion of its 2,000 troops out by mid-March, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the plans.
“We are not discussing the timeline of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria,” Navy Commander Sean Robertson told the paper.
In a surprise move in December, U.S. President Donald Trump sidelined his own national security team and allies by announcing the end of the U.S. troops’ presence in Syria, declaring that the ISIL had been defeated there.
But amid an outcry in Congress, he later appeared to have backtracked on the decision, while no clear timetable has officially been set.
Earlier this week, Trump said he believed that very soon he would be able to declare the defeat of the “physical caliphate” of ISIL.
“I want to wait for the official word, I don’t want to say it too early,” Trump said at a gathering of 79 countries partnering with the United States against ISIL in Washington.
Officials from several European countries have expressed concern about a potential “vacuum” once the U.S. withdraws.
In the same meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reassured allies that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was not “the end of America’s fight” and called on them to recommit to permanently defeating ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
“The U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America’s fight. The fight is one we will continue to wage alongside you,” Pompeo said in opening remarks. “The drawdown in troops is essentially a tactical change; it is not a change in the mission. It simply represents a new stage in an old fight,” he said.
On Feb. 5, a top U.S. general warned that ISIL would pose an enduring threat following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria. General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that will fuel a menacing insurgency.