The US military is preparing to withdraw all of its troops from Syria by the end of April even as the Donald Trump administration is yet to come up with a plan to protect its Kurdish partners from attack when its forces pull out, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Citing former and current US officials, the newspaper reported on Thursday that unless the Trump administration changed course, the Pentagon plans to pull a significant portion of its 2,000 troops out by mid-March, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the plans.
“We are not discussing the timeline of the US withdrawal from Syria,” Navy Commander Sean Robertson told the Journal.
In December, Trump declared victory over the Islamic State terror group in war-torn Syria and announced that American forces would be “coming home soon”, sparking concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad.
But amid an outcry in Congress, he later appeared to have backtracked on the decision, while no clear timetable has officially been set.
Earlier this week, Trump said he believed that very soon he would be able to declare the defeat of the “physical caliphate” of the terror group.
Officials from several European countries have expressed concern about a potential “vacuum” once the US withdraws.
Among the policy decisions still to be made was what to do about the tens of thousands of Syrian Kurdish fighters that US forces had trained, armed and advised to carry out the ground war against the Islamic State.
Turkey, a NATO ally, considers them terrorists and has vowed to drive them out of the northeastern Syrian territory seized from the militants as soon as the Americans leave.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this week that there was still little clarity on the details of the Trump administration’s planned withdrawal from Syria and the creation of a “safe zone” in the northeastern part of the country.