Trump says there is no set date for Syria troop withdrawal
Bill Van Auken
4 January 2019
In a meandering and at times incoherent White House cabinet meeting held in front of the media, US President Donald Trump defended his surprise December 19 announcement of his decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria, while indicating that there is no set timetable for doing so.
Initially there were reports from within the administration that US forces—officially numbered at 2,000 but possibly consisting of as many as twice that number—would be brought out of Syria within 30 days. Subsequently, the time frame was put at 60 to 100 days. Since the beginning of the new year, it has been reported that the deadline has been extended to 120 days.
The withdrawal decision provoked the resignation of Defense Secretary General James Mattis, who penned a letter implicitly criticizing Trump for abandoning allies and failing to confront Russia, as well as that of Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the so-called war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The announcement likewise provoked a storm of criticism from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress.
At Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Trump answered a reporter’s question on the timetable for the Syria withdrawal by denying that he had signed off on a three-month period or that he had ever used the words “fast or slow.” Instead, he merely reiterated, “I’m getting out—we’re getting out of Syria.”
CNN reported that the 120-day framework had been presented by the US military command, which claimed that it would be impossible to organize a safe and orderly pullout any sooner. Part of the problem is the huge amounts of weaponry and ammunition that the US military has sent into Syria, which cannot be removed as…