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US likely to withdraw its troops from Syria in weeks

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-12 07:16

The United States is likely to start withdrawal of ground troops from Syria within weeks, but the exact timing depends on the situation in Syria, said the top commander overseeing US forces in the Middle East.

The US has started pulling out equipment from the war-torn country, but US Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, said that the withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops would begin in "probably weeks", but that "the situation on the ground" could still affect those plans.

But he didn't speculate about when the pull out would be complete.

US President Donald Trump surprisingly announced on Dec 19 that the US would immediately withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that the Islamic State group had been defeated.

Hundreds of additional troops have been sent to Syria to facilitate the withdrawal.

According to Wang Peng, an associate research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, it is still too early to deduce whether the US has abandoned its influence in Middle East. But the withdrawal could be understood as a reconciliation between Russia and the US on the issue of postwar arrangement of Syria.

The US government may withdraw from Syria and admitted the strategic advantage of Russia in regional affairs, he said.

Xu Liping, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that after Trump announced the pullout of troops from Syria, US officials have already made many moves to reassure its allies in the Middle East, and that the US will still play an important role in fighting the IS group. Its influence in this region after the pullout will also continue.

The US-backed fighters said on Saturday they have launched a final assault against IS enclaves near the Iraqi border. In a fierce battle, Syrian Democratic Forces seized ground from IS to capture its last enclave in eastern Syria.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for Syrian Democratic Forces, tweeted that the assault started on Saturday after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the area in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor that was held by the IS.

Reuters contributed to this story.

(China Daily 02/12/2019 page11)

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