The United States is moving on to the next phase in its campaign in Syria against the Daesh* terrorist group, and will continue to work with its allies to fight the radical group, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in statement on Wednesday.
“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Sanders said. “The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support and any means of infiltrating our borders.”
Following the announcement, the US official stated that in 24 hours, all US State Department staff will be evacuated from Syria adding that it is expected that the troops will return home within 60 to 100 days.
The move comes after US President Donald said earlier in the day in a Twitter statement that the Daesh terrorist group has been defeated in Syria, adding that this was the only reason for the United States to be in the Middle Eastern country during his presidency.
However, later in the day, US Defense Department spokesperson Robert Manning told Sputnik that the US is continuing to work with its partners in Syria amid reports that President Donald Trump’s administration has decided to pull US troops out of the Middle Eastern country.
“At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region,” Manning noted.
Commenting on the move, US Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that the Trump administration’s reported plan to withdraw all military service members from Syria would be a big mistake and put the United States’ allies in the region at risk.
“If these media reports are true, it will be an Obama-like mistake made by the Trump Administration,” Graham said. “An American withdrawal will put the Kurds and all those who came to America’s aid in destroying ISIS at tremendous risk.”
Trump’s announcement came shortly after The Wall Street Journal reports that cited people familiar with the matter stating that US officials have started telling partners in northeastern Syria about the plans to immediately pull all American forces out of the area.
Last week, Department of Defence spokesperson Col. Rob Manning said that the US has finalised the establishment of observation posts in northeast Syria and will be coordinating with Turkey its security efforts in the border region.
The US-led coalition and its majority-Kurd Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies have ramped up a campaign against the remnants of Daesh holed up in several towns east of the Euphrates River.
The Syrian government has repeatedly accused the coalition of using white phosphorus and cluster bombs in the region, and of causing heavy civilian casualties in built-up areas. The coalition has confirmed carrying out a heavy campaign of airstrikes in the area, including in the city of Hajin, but has denied that the strikes are causing mass civilian casualties, and adamantly denied using banned white phosphorus and cluster munitions.
Since early November, Sputnik has reported on the deaths of nearly 200 civilians in coalition strikes in Hajin and al-Shaafa.