Bolton: No US Withdrawal from Syria Without Deal to Protect Kurds

John Bolton is set to meet Israel's prime minister and Turkey's president during his trip

John Bolton is set to meet Israel's prime minister and Turkey's president during his trip

President Trump's national security adviser sought to reassure allies Sunday that the United States would be methodical about withdrawing troops from Syria, promising that the pullout would not occur until the Islamic State was fully eradicated from the country and Turkey could guarantee the safety of Kurdish fighters who have fought alongside American personnel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US National Security Advisor John Bolton shake hands during a joint statement to the media follow their meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.

During talks in Israel on Sunday, Bolton said the United States withdrawal is "conditional" on assurances from Turkey it would not attack America's Kurdish allies.

The remark came in contrast to the president's statement from December 19., when he said the withdrawal would happen quickly and that the US had defeated ISIS.

Those meetings will follow talks, also focusing on Syria, that Bolton is holding in Israel, where he said the USA pullout was conditional on Turkish guarantees in regard to US -backed Kurdish fighters. "There is no doubt that a terror group can not be an ally of the USA". Erdogan has promised that his forces, along with their own allied Syrian fighters, will take up the anti-IS fight - a promise viewed with suspicion by critics who think Erdogan could attack the Kurds anew once the USA departs. He is to deliver a warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week.

Netanyahu said he also discussed the matter with President Donald Trump. "But we are decimating ISIS", Trump told reporters. That group has been classified as a terrorist organization by both the USA and Turkey. In September a senior USA official said there was evidence showing chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

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Bolton's remarks and Turkey's response mark the latest chapter in the White House's decision to withdraw its troops from Syria - a move that culminated in the resignations of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the top presidential envoy in the fight against ISIS. He watched a virtual reality tour of the historic site and dined there with his Israeli equivalent, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

Ziya Meral, director of the London and Beirut-based Centre on Religion and Global Affairs, said it would be "naive" for the U.S. to expect Turkey not to "interfere" in Syria while the YPG remained in control across the border.

"Part of what we want to see is no vacuum in northeast Syria that malign forces can take advantage of, so that will be a big part of discussions with the Turks", Bolton said. He also said Trump wanted to ensure that the Islamic State was "destroyed".

The force, which receives key support in the air and on the ground from the United States military, said in a statement that the militants were captured on December 30.

Turkey wants the provide air support for its troops against Islamic State militants who hold several villages near the Syria-Iraq border and the city of Hajin, which lies more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the Turkish border, said the person, who has direct knowledge of Turkey's plans but isn't authorized to speak to the media.

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