WASHINGTON/ANKARA, US Pres Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after US ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the US president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision to pull the 2,000 US troops out of Syria, where they have been helping assisting in a multinational fight against IS.

“The two leaders agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Hours earlier Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed Daesh, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area.”

Erdogan tweeted shortly thereafter, saying the two leaders “agreed to increase coordination on many issues including trade relations and the developments in Syria,” dubbing the call “productive.”

US troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.

An American exit would allow Turkish troops to move against Kurdish fighters in Syria who have played a key role in the war against Daesh but are deemed terrorists by Ankara.

Many US politicians and international allies fear the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilise the already devastated region.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable.”

Several US politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that Daesh had been defeated, and many in the US military expressed alarm and dismay at the thought of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.

And Trump’s sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Mattis as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-IS coalition.

Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting Jan 1.

Unlike Mattis, Shanahan has never served in the military and has spent most of his career in the private sector.

He spent over three decades working for aircraft giant Boeing, including as vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defence Systems, before moving to the Pentagon as deputy in 2017.

Until Trump finds a permanent defence leader, Shanahan will lead plans for US troops to leave Syria along with a significant drawdown in Afghanistan, both of which critics worry will leave war-torn regions at risk of continued and potentially heightened bloodshed.

Mick Mulvaney, who will soon leave his post as White House budget director to serve as Trump’s chief of staff, told ABC on Sunday Trump will not change his mind about the withdrawal, despite this week’s protest resignations.

“I think the president has told people from the very beginning that he doesn’t want us to stay in Syria forever. You’re seeing the end result now of two years’ worth of work.”

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

syrianewsgazette.comGeneral
WASHINGTON/ANKARA, US Pres Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after US ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the US president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.Turkey was a rare ally that...