A withdrawal framework for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) has been approved and is currently being executed by US forces, said Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson in a statement on Tuesday.
“That framework is conditions-based and will not subject troop withdrawal to an arbitrary timeline. The framework will be influenced by a number of factors, including weather,” said Robertson.
Operation Inherent Resolve is the name of a US military campaign launched in August 2014 after the Daesh terrorist Takfiri group overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
The US has ever since maintained military presence in Syria without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.
The Pentagon statement came after US President Donald Trump called for a swift troop pullout on December 19, alleging the defeat of Daesh and surprising many within the US establishment and abroad.
The announcement further resulted in the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US anti-Daesh coalition envoy Brett McGurk and Pentagon chief of staff Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney who disapproved of the president’s decision.
Trump, nevertheless, seemingly gave in to pressure to slow down the troops pullout two weeks later, granting the US military up to four months to withdraw.
The Pentagon’s recent statement, nonetheless, further confirms what Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton had said during a visit to Israel earlier this week.
Bolton had said that the United States must achieve certain “objectives” before withdrawing troops, effectively laying out conditions that could entrench American forces in Syria for probably many months or even years to come.
Some media reports cited Bolton’s comments as a sign that the president had abandoned his initial swift withdrawal order.
Trump, however, lashed out at the reports, claiming to have never said anything other than what Bolton had suggested.
Only three months before Trump announced his surprise pullout plan, Bolton had declared that US forces would remain in Syria as long as Iranians were “outside Iranian borders.”
Last week, Israeli regime President Benjamin Netanyahu met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reportedly urge a slowdown in Trump’s Syria troop withdrawal.