Bolton: U.S. Troops Will Remain in Northeast Syria to Protect Kurds from Turkey

Trump has since indicated that the withdrawal would be slower than initially suggested…

NSA chief John Bolton

John Bolton/photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Margaret Talev, Bloomberg News) U.S. forces will remain in northeastern Syria until Turkey agrees not go after the Kurds, national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday.

“That’s what the president said, the ones that fought with us,” Bolton said in Israel before a planned meeting this week in Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States, at a minimum, so they don’t endanger our troops but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

Bolton’s clarification followed a backlash from U.S. lawmakers and other nations after Trump’s announcement last month that he would quickly withdraw from Syria left the fate of the Kurds in doubt. Trump has since indicated that the withdrawal would be slower than initially suggested, although Bolton on Sunday rejected any specific deadline.

“This is a cause-and-effect mission,” he said. “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable.”

Bolton said the withdrawal from Syria would not involve the “establishment of an arbitrary point for the withdrawal to take place as President Obama did in the Afghan situation” and that “the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement. That also doesn’t mean it’s unlimited, because, as I say, the primary point is we are going to withdraw from northeastern Syria.”

Bolton asserted Trump’s broad authority to protect U.S. interests “anywhere around the world.” Asked about the authority to maintain U.S. forces at al-Tanf in Syria, Bolton said: “There’s plenty of legal justification about concern for the resurgence of ISIS,” Bolton said. “But I’m a strong believer in Article II, and I think that what that means is the president has full authority to protect American and allied interests anywhere around the world.”

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