Home / World / Pompeo says that US troop withdrawal from Syria is just a "tactical change": NPR

Pompeo says that US troop withdrawal from Syria is just a "tactical change": NPR

US. State Secretary Mike Pompeo (center) visited Bahrain on Friday.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AP

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Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AP

US. Secretary Mike Pompeo (center) visited Bahrain on Friday.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AP

On Saturday, American withdrawal declared a "tactical change" in military strategy that would not deter efforts to defeat ISIS or damage US interests in the region.

After the Pentagon announced Pompeo's remarks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the "process of our intentional recall" had begun.

President Trump's unexpected message last month that the troops would leave the country has burned the fear that a force vacuum could strengthen ISIS and cede influence in the region to Iran and Russia. It also raised concerns about the security of Kurdish forces who fought ISIS with the US in Syria but are considered terrorists by Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We recognize the right of the Turkish people and President Erdogan to defend their country from terrorists," said Pompeo Saturday, according to NPR's Michele Kelemen, who travels with the secretary.

"We also know that those who are not terrorists, those who fought alongside us throughout this time deserve to be protected too," Pompeo said. "We are convinced that we can achieve a result that achieves both of these."

Erdogan has said that his military is prepared to attack Sweden in Syria under the control of the Kurdish people's security units. In a December speech, he said Turkey's army would be ready to "neutralize terrorist organizations" in the coming months, according to the Financial Times.

When Pompeo said earlier this month that the United States wants to make sure "the Turks do not slaughter the Kurds," Turkey condemned Pompeo and said he showed "a worrying lack of information". Erdogan also interrupted a meeting with Trump's National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

No US staff left Syria, according to a Pentagon spokesman. A separate spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition refused to discuss timelines, sites, and troop movements, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported.

More than 2000 US troops are serving in Syria. Their departure has not only troubled the nation's Kurds, but even Christians in the country are afraid of what may happen after the American troops leave, says Bassam Ishak, president of Syriac's National Council in Syria and an American representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, [19659008] Kurds and Christians in the northeastern region "have attempted to merge this pluralistic model based on secularism," he told the NPR.

"The political arm of the Syrian democratic forces, an American-backed Kurdish group. We stand to lose our way of life, we also stand to lose our property and our livelihood," Ishak says. "We will be like second-class citizens at best if we survive as Christians and Kurds from Syria."

Pompeo told reporters that he spoke with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday. He said that many details of the troop admission still have to be removed, but that he was optimistic, a "good result" could be reached between Turkey and Kurdish groups in Syria.

Just because a "few thousand uniform staff" will leave Syria, Pompeo says, does not mean that US interests have changed.

Nor will it stop the United States from trying to "get every Iranian start from Syria," Pompeo said. He declared a "big and growing" coalition to exert pressure on Iran.

Special representative of Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former US envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions as Pompeo added.

Trump's decision to call back US troops in Syria, introduced for the first time in 2015, was followed a day later by defense secretary Jim Mattis, who wrote a letter to the president saying he was entitled to have a defense secretary "whose views are better suited to your."

The President's announcement also accelerated the dismissal of Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy for the Coalition who is contrary to ISIS.

The Turkish President wrote in a New York Times that Trump "made the right conversation."

Pompeo also spoke of the partial government's suspension, which has become the nation's longest. "Morals are good" among diplomats, he said. "They understand that there are gossip in Washington, but their mission remains, their data continues and they execute them."

The secretary, who began his journey in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday is expected to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait before returning to Washington.

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