US President Donald Trump said Wednesday in announcing a stunning order to pull American ground forces from the war-ravaged nation.
The decision to withdraw, which runs counter to long-established US policy for Syria and the region, blindsided lawmakers, the Pentagon and international allies alike.
“We´ve won against [Daesh],” Trump said in a short video posted on Twitter.
“We´ve beaten them and we´ve beaten them badly. We´ve taken back the land. And now it´s time for our troops to come back home.”
A withdrawal could have extraordinary geopolitical ramifications, and plunges into uncertainty the fate of US-backed Kurdish fighters who have been tackling Daesh militants, thousands of whom are thought to remain in Syria.
A US official told AFP that Trump´s decision was finalised Tuesday.
“Full withdrawal, all means all,” the official said when asked if the troops would be pulled from across Syria.
Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in the country, most of them on a train-and-advise mission to support local forces fighting Daesh.
A large contingent of the main US-backed, anti-Daesh fighting force in Syria, an alliance known as the Syrian Democratic forces (SDF), is Kurdish. Turkey terms it a “terrorist” group.
Ankara has said it plans to launch an operation against the Kurdish militia, known as the YPG (Kurdish People´s Protection Units).
While the YPG has spearheaded Washington´s fight against Daesh, US support has strained relations between the NATO allies.
In a sign of possible rapprochement, the State Department said it had approved the $3.5 billion sale of Patriot missiles and associated equipment to Turkey.
The US decision to withdraw from Syria marks a remarkable development not just for the Kurds, but for years-old US doctrine in the region.