'Netanyahu, Trump clash over Syria early withdrawal plan'

Rouhani in Ankara today

Trump's sudden embrace of a pullout was itself a reversal of a strategy for Syria he endorsed just a few months ago.

Officials say that the United States policy on fighting in Syria remains wholly unchanged.

But Trump has a simple solution for that: he instructed his national security team not to refer to his five or six month deadline as a "timeline".

Trump is going with his distaste for America's never-ending Middle East wars - so often expressed during the 2016 campaign - while signaling something broader to America's Middle East friends and foes alike. "We have to work through some very hard issues as we speak", he said.

Speaking to the Associated Press on Wednesday, he said the US statements about a pullout were a cause for "concern on the street level" but that Kurdish officials were receiving reassurances from USA generals on the ground that American troops were staying. "[President Barack] Obama started it", she adds, "and Trump ran on it".

The further concern is the threat to other Trump administration goals, such as blunting Iran's influence in the region.

Last week, Trump caught the U.S. State Department off guard when he proclaimed the U.S. was "coming out of Syria, like, very soon".

"US policy on Syria is made and implemented by the Pentagon".

In Syria, however, the United States made a decision to create bases in Kurdish-controlled areas taken back by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is comprised mainly of Kurds and Arab fighters.

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What should Trump be doing in Syria?

With no military presence to ensure security for American personnel, the U.S. will have to call off other planned operations to clear land mines, restore basic services like water and electricity, and create political conditions needed to resolve Syria's civil war. Moreover, Obama also used the USA military to block the Islamic State* terror group's direct threat to the Kurds in northeast Iraq, Brenner added. Documents presented to the president included several pages of possibilities for staying in, but only a brief description of an option for full withdrawal that emphasized significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russian Federation would take advantage of a USA vacuum.

Assad, who is supported by Russian Federation and by Shi'ite militias backed by Iran, has said he wants to take back every inch of Syria. "This raises the risk it poses even more". Also likely to feel abandoned is the Syrian Democratic Coalition, which Heras points out was the go-to local partner under the Mattis plan to administer and provide services and security for areas previously held by ISIS.

A precipitous withdrawal "would send a frightening message" to the entire region, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government representative to the U.S., said at a conference recently held at the United States Institute of Peace. It's not clear where Bolton stands on the issue, however, though he has favored actions that thwart Iran's influence in the region.

Syria presents its own welter of complexities. "It really raises the stakes if the Israelis decide they need to respond unilaterally in Syria", he says.

Independent Institute Center for Peace and Freedom Director Ivan Eland agreed that Trump was at odds with his own national security bureaucracy in wanting to evacuate the United States military from Syria.

Trump appears to be unconcerned with such potential consequences, dramatically scaling back US goals in Syria amid disagreements with his aides and national security team.

The ongoing civil war, which began with anti-government uprisings in 2011, has claimed more than 400,000 lives as dictator Bashar al-Assad (pictured at left) has fought an overthrow of his government by ISIS and by some rebel forces - supposedly moderate Islamists - backed by the U.S.

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