The US national security adviser has signaled a pause in planned troop withdrawals. The move abruptly announced by President Donald Trump last month was initially expected to be completed within weeks.
US troops will not leave northeastern Syria until "Islamic State" (IS) militants are completely routed and US-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser said on Sunday.
John Bolton said there was no timeline for the troops' withdrawal, which was initially expected to be completed within weeks of Trump's abrupt announcement last month.
"There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal," Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem.
Talking to reporters in Washington, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to withdrawing US troops but added that he had "never said we're doing it that quickly."
Making the announcement on December 19 in a video posted on Twitter, Trump said that IS had been defeated and that "all" of the roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria would be "coming back now."
Kurds' safety a condition
Trump's decision was criticized by US allies and led to the resignation of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The announcement also raised fears that Turkey would take advantage of the US withdrawal and attack the US-allied Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist group linked to domestic Kurdish insurgents.
But Bolton said on Sunday that the US would not withdraw from Syria unless Turkey gave assurances that it would not attack the YPG.
"We don't think the Turks ought to undertake military action that's not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States," Bolton said, adding that the US has asked the Kurds to "stand fast now" and refrain from seeking protection from Russia or government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Bolton, who is scheduled to travel to Turkey from Israel, said he would stress the need to protect Kurdish forces in talks with Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
ap/amp (AP, AFP, Reuters)