US starts to withdraw troops from Syria

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US President Donald Trump had long voiced his desire to bring the US troops back home, claiming the US has “defeated the territorial caliphate.” XINHUA

WASHINGTON (Xinhua) – The Trump administration has announced that it has started returning US troops home from Syria after claiming a victory in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) without revealing any detailed timetable.

“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” said White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders in a statement, claiming that America has “defeated the territorial caliphate.”

Pentagon later echoed the White House claim, saying that the US military has already begun the process of bringing the US forces back while emphasising the continuity of the campaign.

“The Coalition has liberated ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over,” the Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a tweet.

All US State Department personnel are being evacuated from Syria within 24 hours, reported Reuters after the White House announcement, citing an anonymous administration official.

The official also revealed that the time-frame for the troops withdrawal from the war-torn Arab country is expected to be between 60 and 100 days, according to the report.

However, a senior Trump administration official, during a background briefing held on Wednesday afternoon, did not directly answer reporters’ questions on how the administration intends to withdraw the troops or whether there will a deadline for that. Ms Sanders’ statement came about one hour after US President Donald Trump hinted in a tweet about imminent US troop withdrawal from Syria. Currently, there are more than 2,000 US soldiers deployed in Syria.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Mr Trump has long voiced his desire to bring the US troops back home when possible, while senior administration officials including Defense Secretary James Mattis have advocated for a longer-term military deployment in Syria to secure a victory against the IS.

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