Trump declares Daesh defeated, pulls US troops out of Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces and US troops during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah last month. (Reuters)
Updated 20 December 2018

Trump declares Daesh defeated, pulls US troops out of Syria

  • Planning for the pullout has begun and troops will begin leaving 'as soon as possible'
  • Leading Republican senators reacted with displeasure to the news

JEDDAH: The US has begun to withdraw all its 2,000 remaining troops in Syria after President Donald Trump declared victory over Daesh.

“We have defeated Daesh in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency,” he said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the campaign against terrorism would move to a new phase. “Five years ago, Daesh was a powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the US has defeated the territorial caliphate,” she said.

“These victories over Daesh in Syria do not signal the end of the global coalition. We have started returning US troops home as we transition to the next phase.”

Most US troops in Syria are special forces working with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias.

Turkey views Kurdish YPG forces in the alliance as terrorists, but the presence of US troops has given the Kurds a measure of protection. Their fate is now uncertain, and Ankara has said it plans to launch an operation against Kurdish militias east of the Euphrates River.

Most US forces are stationed in northern Syria, though a small contingent is based at a garrison in Al-Tanaf, near the Jordanian and Iraqi border.

A complete withdrawal from Syria would still leave a sizeable US military presence in the region, including about 5,200 troops across the border in Iraq. Much of the US campaign in Syria has been waged by warplanes flying out of bases elsewhere in the Middle East.

Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

Updated 17 June 2019

Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities have removed nearly 30 kilometers of concrete blast walls across Baghdad in the last six months, mostly around the capital’s high-security Green Zone, a senior official told AFP.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, T-walls — thick barriers about six meters tall and one meter wide — have surrounded potential targets of car bombs or other attacks.
When premier Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power last year, he promised to remove barriers, checkpoints and other security measures to make Baghdad easier to navigate.
“Over the last six months, we removed 18,000 T-walls in Baghdad, including 14,000 in the Green Zone alone,” said Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bayati, the PM’s top military adviser.
Hundreds of the security checkpoints that contributed to Baghdad’s notorious traffic jams have also been removed.
And according to the Baghdad municipality, 600 streets that had been closed off to public access have been opened in the last six months.
Among them are key routes crossing through Baghdad’s Green Zone, the enclave where government buildings, UN agencies and embassies including the US and UK missions are based.
It was long inaccessible to most Iraqis until an order from Abdel Mahdi last year, and families can now be seen picking their way across its manicured parks for sunset pictures.
Iraq is living a rare period of calm after consecutive decades of violence, which for Baghdad peaked during the sectarian battles from 2006 to 2008.
It was followed, in 2014, by Daesh’s sweep across a third of the country and a three-year battle to oust the militants from their urban strongholds.
The group still wages hit-and-run attacks against Iraqi security forces and government targets, and Baghdad’s authorities are on high alert.
Thousands of the removed T-walls have been placed on Baghdad’s outskirts to prevent infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells, according to Bayati.