President Trump declares victory over ISIS in Syria, orders immediate and full withdrawal of troops
BREAKING: President Donald Trump declared victory over ISIS in Syria on Wednesday, as the Pentagon prepares for an immediate troop withdrawal.
‘We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,’ the president wrote on Twitter.
His declaration came after a number of outlets quoted Pentagon officials saying the U.S. would soon begin pulling out remaining forces, which number about 2,000.
‘The Pentagon has an order to get to move troops out of Syria as quickly as possible,’ a U.S. official told the paper.
The move is likely to please Turkish president Recep Erdogan, who wants to counter U.S. allied Kurdish forces in Syria and who spoke with Trump by telephone last week. He has been threatening an assault on U.S. allied Kurdish forces, who have been effective in helping to combat ISIS.
As the U.S. is preparing to pack up, Russia is moving in. After carrying out a fight in Syria billed as an anti-terror campaign but also buttressing Assad, Russia has begun building a permanent military presence.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has pushed for a longer-term presence to make sure ISIS does not return to its former power, having been rolled back from its sprawling geographic base in Iraq and Syria.
The move drew immediate criticism from Trump ally Lindsey Graham, in language that seemed designed to appeal to Trump’s loathing of his predecessor.
‘Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,’ Graham tweeted.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that ISIS terrorists had executed nearly 700 prisoners in nearly two months in eastern Syria.
The UK-based war monitoring group said the prisoners were among 1,350 civilians and fighters that ISIS had been holding in territory near the Iraqi border.
SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani said last week that at least 5,000 ISIS terrorists remain holed up in the enclave, including many foreigners who appear ready to fight to the death.