US fudges on timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration's Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The White House has sent Bolton on a mission to allay Israel's concerns

US fudges on timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

In December, US President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing US troops from Syria, where he claimed so-called Islamic State had been defeated.

Sergeant Matt Tonroe of 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment was killed while embedded with U.S. forces in Syria when they were caught by an explosion in March 2018.

A missile fired by fighters from the Islamic State militant group wounded two British soldiers and killed an allied Kurdish fighter on Saturday.

The development shocked allies and United States defence officials alike, with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and senior aide Brett McGurk resigning soon after.

John Bolton has set out on a trip to explain Donald Trump's plans on Syria to our allies, who were caught flat-footed by his announcement of withdrawing completely from the ISIS battleground.

Bolton was due to hold talks later on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the discussions would focus on Iran's role in the region and the situation in Syria.

Clark, who went by the alias Abu Muhammad al-Ameriki, was reportedly one of at least 64 Americans from 16 states who had traveled to Iraq and Syria since 2011 to join jihadi groups, mainly ISIS.

Netanyahu has been delighted by Trump's hard line on Israel's main enemy Iran and the landmark move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but the pullout from Syria has caused concern.

"We have irrefutable evidence that this was another staged event, and that the secret services of a certain state that is now at the forefront of a Russophobic campaign was involved in this staged event", he said during a press conference previous year.

Syrian Kurds, who have fought ISIS alongside American forces, fear an attack from Turkey when the US withdraws.

Bolton was set to have dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday evening to discuss the pace of the U.S. drawdown, American troop levels in the region, and the USA commitment to push back on Iranian regional expansionism.

President Donald Trump announced last month that he was withdrawing all US troops from Syria immediately but has since softened the timing to say the drawdown will happen more slowly.

Ahead of his meeting with Turkish officials on Monday, Bolton said he will seek 'to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain'. If the U.S. leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it - and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening.

Bolton said USA troops would remain at the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region.

"One aim of Turkey's fight against the PKK and its Syrian extensions is to rescue the Kurds from the cruelty and oppression of this terrorist group", he added.

Bolton said the United States has told its Kurdish allies to "stand fast now" and refrain from seeking protection from Russian Federation or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

"I think they know who their friends are", he said.

Netanyahu used Sunday's meeting to again push for the United States and other countries to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it's justified by the president's constitutional authority.

In this December 13, 2018 file photo, National Security Adviser John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration's Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

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