Main U.S. ally in Syria warns troop pullout will lead to ISIS resurgence

/ AP

Trump's Syria withdrawal plan worries allies

The United States' main ally in Syria on Thursday categorically rejected President Trump's claim that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have been defeated and warned that the withdrawal of American troops before accomplishing that goal would lead to a resurgence of the extremist group.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a strongly worded statement laced with bitterness that a premature U.S. pullout would have dangerous repercussions and a destabilizing effect on the entire region.

"The war against terrorism has not ended and (ISIS) has not been defeated," the statement said. It added that the fight against ISIS was at a "decisive" stage that requires even more support from the U.S.-led coalition.

It was the first official comment by the group on Mr. Trump's surprise announcement, which came a day earlier.

The U.S. began airstrikes against ISIS in Syria in 2014 and later sent in ground troops to aid Kurdish forces. Mr. Trump abruptly declared their mission accomplished in a tweet Wednesday. His contention that ISIS has been defeated contradicted his own experts' assessments and shocked his party's lawmakers, who called his decision rash and dangerous.

We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018

Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria has rattled Washington's Kurdish allies, who are its most reliable partner in the country and among the most effective ground forces battling ISIS. With U.S. air support, the Kurds drove ISIS from much of northern and eastern Syria in a costly four-year campaign.

The announcement of a pullout is widely seen as an abandonment of a loyal ally.

"The decision to pull out under these circumstances will lead to a state of instability and create a political and military void in the region and leave its people between the claws of enemy forces," the SDF statement said.

"Assad has won," Ian Bremmer says, as Trump withdraws U.S. troops from Syria

Kurdish officials and commanders met into the night, discussing their responses to the decision, local residents said Thursday.

Sheikhmos, a Kurdish journalist and commentator, said "we have every right to be afraid."

"If the Americans pull out and leave us to the Turks or the (Syrian) regime our destiny will be like the Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 – million of refugees, there will be massacres. Neither the regime, not Iran nor Turkey, will accept our presence here," he said.

First published on December 20, 2018

© 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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