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Some US troops could remain in Syria despite withdrawal: report

FILE - In this file picture taken on Thursday, March 29, 2018, a fighter, second from right, of U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council stands next to U.S. humvee at a U.S. troop's outpost on a road leading to the tense front line between Syrian Manbij
(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Despite US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out all 2,000 troops from Syria, some could remain in the southern part of the war-torn country, a senior US official told NBC News on Friday. 

The official, who was traveling with National Security adviser John Bolton to Israel on Saturday, added that the remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters in Syria could be defeated within weeks, according to the NBC report. 

Meanwhile, Bolton told reporters on Saturday that the withdrawal of troops should not be seen as an invitation for Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons. 

There is absolutely no change in the U.S. position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton told reporters.

“So the regime, the Assad regime, should be under no illusions on that question," he added.

On Friday, Reuters also quoted a US official who said Washington has "no timeline for our military forces to withdraw from Syria.”

Since Trump announced his decision in December, a number of statements have been made regarding the timeline.

AFP

On Wednesday, Trump said the withdrawal would happen “over a period of time” without specifying further.

His statement came a day after the New York Times reported that Trump had agreed to a gradual withdrawal from Syria over a four-month period, appearing to water down his shock plans for an immediate pullout from the war-ravaged country.

The US State Department official assured that the withdrawal would not create a “vacuum for terrorists”.

“It will be done in such a way that we and our allies and partners maintain pressure on ISIS throughout and we do not open up any vacuums for terrorists,” the official told Reuters.

Both Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are in the Middle East now, widely considered an attempt by Washington to assure its commitment the security of its allies. 

“The decision the president made on Syria in no way changes anything this administration is working on alongside Israel. The counter ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continues, and our commitment to Middle East stability and protection of Israel. We will continue the same way as before this decision was made,” Pompeo told Netanyahu earlier this week during a meeting in Brazil. 

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