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US mulling complete withdrawal of troops from Syria

US mulling complete withdrawal of troops from Syria

Later on Wednesday, the Pentagon released a statement saying it had started the process of withdrawing USA troops from Syria, but appeared to oppose Mr Trump's assertion that the ISIS campaign is over.

In addition to the limited ground presence in Syria, the US also has conducted air strikes against the Islamic State since 2014; from December 9 to December 15, for example, the USA -led coalition conducted more than 200 strikes in Syria, according to the Pentagon.

All State Department personnel are reportedly being evacuated from Syria within the next 24-hours.

But Trump has long pressed the military to withdraw from Syria, saying in April that he would make a decision "very quickly".

Citing U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that America's partners in northeast Syria, namely the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), are aware of the Trump administration's decision to withdraw.

The president said all United States troops are to be pulled out of the country as they near the end of their campaign to retake territory once held by IS.

USA forces are also in south-eastern Syria, supporting an alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters (the Syrian Democratic Forces) that is closing in on the last pocket of territory controlled by IS there, around the town of Hajin in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. USA policy has been that American forces would stay in place until the extremists were eradicated.

On Wednesday, as Vice President Mike Pence met with top military leaders in the Pentagon, Trump tweeted: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency".

"We remain committed to working with our partners on the ground to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS".

More news: Turkey May Start New Syria Operation at Any Moment, Erdogan Says

"I want to get out and bring our troops back home".

Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think-tank, said a pull-out would allow other countries such as Iran to increase their influence in Syria.

Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said that the executions had taken place ever since the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition of mainly Kurdish militants, re-launched their assault on Daesh militants in October.

Russia's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said the United States decision to withdraw creates prospects for political settlement to the years-long, bloody Syrian civil war, according to the TASS news agency.

Hajin, the group's last major stronghold in Syria, is close to being seized by US-backed Syrian Defence Force fighters.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the U.S. of being in Syria illegally, labeling Washington an impediment to peace: "From being a factor in the fight against terrorism, the illegal United States presence in Syria is becoming a unsafe obstacle to the path to a settlement".

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent defender of the president, however, wasn't as welcoming of Trump's decision as usual.

Washington's exit will also have implications for the presence of ISIS in Syria, as well as aiding Iranian and Russian ambitions.