US withdrawal from Syria 'harms anti-ISIS fight'
US President Donald Trump has claimed that ISIS has been defeated and plans to withdraw US forces from Syria, prompting condemnation from the Syria Democratic Forces.
A statement from the Kurdish forces said that a possible military vacuum could leave the alliance trapped between ‘hostile parties’, with the surprising move to withdraw American troops from the country allowing an ISIS revival and threatening the battle in eastern Syria.
Opposing the SDF’s claims of ‘dangerous implications for international stability’, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the decision, but said that ‘the US has been in Afghanistan for 17 years and they always say they are withdrawing’, showing a degree of caution.
On the morning of 19 December, Trump tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”
The claim seems somewhat at odds with his own administration’s assessments, with the Pentagon assessing in August that there were still as many as 14,500 Isis fighters still in Syria.
Both the UK and France have troops in Syria, with Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood publicly rejecting Trump’s claim that Isis had been defeated in Syria. He said that the ISIS ‘has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive’.
Approximately 2,000 US troops have largely been stationed in the Kurdish region in northern Syria.