U.S. has no timeline for Syria withdrawal - Reuters

The United States has no timeline to withdraw troops from Syria, but does not plan to stay indefinitely, a senior State Department official told Reuters on Friday. 

U.S.-backed forces are still retaking territory from Islamic State in Syria, Pentagon officials said on Friday, two weeks after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull some 2.000 American troops from Syria.

Another senior State Department official briefing reporters before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to the Middle East next week, said one of his main messages would be that “the United States is not leaving the Middle East,” Reuters reported. 

“Despite reports to the contrary and false narratives surrounding the Syria decision, we are not going anywhere,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.

The U.S. national security adviser John Bolton will visit Turkey and Israel next week to discuss the future of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Bolton said on Twitter on Thursday that he would also discuss with U.S. allies how to “counter Iran’s malign behaviour in the region”.

According to military planners, U.S. withdrawal might take several months, Reuters said. 

One of the proposals under consideration is a 120-day withdrawal period, a person familiar with discussions told Reuters. 

Two sources familiar with the discussions on the other hand, told Reuters that they predicted it would take at least until the end of 2019 to complete the withdrawal from Syria.

The U.S. State Department on Friday said that Ambassador James Jeffrey, the current Special Representative for Syria Engagement, would take on the additional role of the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. 

Former U.S. Special Envoy Brett McGurk resigned following Trump’s announcement regarding U.S. pullout from Syria

During his term, McGurk was heavily criticised by the Turkish government and the pro-government media, for his support to Kurdish forces in Syria, which Turkey sees as a threat to its national security. 

“McGurk’s shuttle diplomacy in northern Iraq and northern Syria has fomented a debate whether he wanted to divide the two countries along ethnic lines and repeat the unethical conduct of Lawrence of Arabia,” Turkey’s state-run TRT World said this week. 

Meawhile, NBC news quoted a senior U.S.  administration on Friday as saying U.S. troops could remain in southern Syria for an undetermined amount of time even as American forces withdraw in coming months from the northern part of the country.

Washington wants to hear from Israeli and Jordanian officials before deciding on their next steps, including how important the Al Tanf base, located on a critical road that stretches from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus, is and whether it has to stay in its current location, NBC quoted the official as saying.