January 8, 2019
On Monday morning, January 7, President Donald Trump clapped back against reports that National Security Adviser John Bolton had contradicted him the day before during an interview from Israel. While Bolton said that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria at “a proper pace,” and that “objectives” must be achieved before that happens, the president continued to insist that the United States would pull out of the war-torn country immediately.
Referring to a story in The New York Times in which Bolton “told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States,” Trump shot off a tweet, saying:
“The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!…..”
The “original statements”—about which Trump refused to backpeddle—were made in December. At that time the president emerged from a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and abruptly announced that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria—without consulting with the Defense Department, the U.S. Congress, or America’s longtime allies.
The move prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as strong rebukes from several Republican lawmakers.
According to a report by The Washington Post, the president actually has backed off on his original intent: While officials said Trump had initially ordered a 30-day departure, the White House later agreed to an exit within 120 days, which would permit troops more time to break down bases and safely remove equipment and personnel.
In another twist, Bolton also suggested that the United States might not withdraw all American forces after all, and instead could leave some at a garrison in southeast Syria, the Post said.
Research contact: @SangerNYT