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.