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Jim Mattis

Mattis plays down odds of Syria pullout before peace agreement

Tue, May 01, 2018 13:24

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2018 (Reuters) - The United States and its allies would not want to pull troops out of Syria before diplomats win the peace, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, one of the strongest signs yet a full US withdrawal was unlikely anytime soon.

US President Donald Trump said last week he wants to withdraw American troops from Syria relatively soon, but appeared to temper that position by voicing a desire to leave a “strong and lasting footprint.”

A footprint, in military-speak, usually refers to a US troop presence.

Mattis said the United States and its allies were on the cusp of victory against Islamic State and added they would not want to simply abandon Syria while it remained in a state of war.

“We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace. You win the fight — and then you win the peace,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

Some of the harshest critics of a potential withdrawal from Syria come from Trump’s own Republican party, which blasted President Barack Obama when he withdrew US troops from Iraq in 2011. Iraqi forces began to unravel and eventually collapsed in the face of Islamic State’s advance into the country in 2014.

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