World highlights Ankara's role in US withdrawal from Syria

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ANKARA
Published 21.12.2018 21:53
Updated 22.12.2018 08:00

The international community sees U.S. President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement to pull U.S. troops out of war-torn Syria as a triumph for Ankara's long-running and steadfast diplomacy, as the decision reportedly came following a phone call between the leaders of the two countries.

French daily Le Monde noted on Thursday that the decision for the U.S. pullout is "a diplomatic victory" for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, underscoring it was announced a few days after a telephone call between Trump and Erdoğan on Dec. 14.

"It seems that the U.S. president gave in to pressure from Turkey's number one [Erdoğan]," it said. The daily also said that Turkey now could launch operations against the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) terror group in Syria.

An article published in The Washington Post, "The biggest winner of Trump's Syria withdrawal? Turkey," indicated that Trump made the decision after Erdoğan convinced him that Turkey would defeat Daesh remnants in the country.

"He [Erdoğan] noted that the Islamic State [Daesh] had been vanquished and questioned the need for an ongoing U.S. troop presence, saying that Turkish troops already massed on the Syrian border could handle any problem there," the newspaper reported, mentioning the two presidents' telephone call.

An article in Bloomberg said that the Trump administration's "gives Turkey a double-edged gift," the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and the proposal to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday approved a $3.5 billion deal to sell the Patriot air and missile defense system to Turkey.

Mattis leaving as Pentagon chief after clashes with Trump

Following the decision to retreat from Syria, Trump announced Thursday that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is stepping down from his post, due to clashes with the president over the decision.

In his resignation letter, Mattis alluded to disagreements with Trump as the reason for his departure. "Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position," Mattis wrote.

On the other hand, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is known to have opposed leaving Syria now, defended the Trump decision Thursday.

"The president made an enormous commitment to take down the caliphate and that has been achieved," he said. "We now have the battle, it's a long-time battle, which is the counterterrorism battle, not only against ISIS [Daesh], but against al-Qaida and others... all the terrorist groups. President Trump remains just as committed today as he was yesterday and the day before," he added.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said on Thursday that the Pentagon is developing plans to withdraw up to half of the American troops serving in Afghanistan, marking a sharp change in Washington's policy on the war-torn country.

Almost 17,000 troops from 39 nations take part in NATO's Resolute Support mission helping to train and mentor Afghan security forces. About half of those troops are American. Other U.S. troops are there independently of NATO.

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