U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to withdraw American soldiers from Syria and his decision is very clear, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Iraq late Wednesday, addressing concerns as to whether Turkey's refusal to fulfill any preconditions to the withdrawal would put the move at risk.
"No, the President – the President's decision to withdraw is very clear," Pompeo said in Irbil in an unscheduled visit to the country.
Responding to questions about how the U.S. will handle the situation with regards to the Kurds and Turkey, Pompeo acknowledged that there was a threat to Turkey from terrorists and Washington will be "very supportive".
"Any place we find extremists and terrorists, we're prepared to support whatever country is ready to go after them. That includes Turkey and others," he said.
Pompeo's remarks come after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that as a precondition for the U.S.' withdrawal, the protection of YPG terrorists must be assured, which drew ire from Turkish politicians, including top government officals.
However, Bolton later said that the U.S.' withdrawal would be subject to defeating Daesh remnants, and Turkey assuring the safety of fighters allied with the U.S., i.e. the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called Bolton's remarks unacceptable, saying Turkey could not accept the U.S.' condition of protecting YPG terrorists, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.
Ankara has repeatedly told Washington that the YPG is not different from the PKK as the groups were intertwined, and partnering with one terrorist group to fight another was not acceptable. Washington, however, has continued to support the YPG, despite the U.S. listing the PKK as a terrorist organization.
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