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U.S. says withdrawal from Syria not end of fight against Islamic State

Withdrawal
Washington, Feb. 6, 2019 (dpa/NNN) The U.S. withdrawal from Syria is “not the end of America’s fight’’ against Islamic State, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said in Washington at the opening of a high-level conference on the extremist group.

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U.S.says withdrawal from Syria not end of fight against Islamic State

Withdrawal
Washington, Feb. 6, 2019 (dpa/NNN) The U.S. withdrawal from Syria is “not the end of America’s fight’’ against Islamic State, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said in Washington at the opening of a high-level conference on the extremist group.

U.S. allies are seeking clarity on Washington’s plans as the 79 members of the global coalition to defeat Islamic State gathered for the minister-level event, where U.S. President Donald Trump will also speak.

Pompeo said the U.S. will need the help of its allies, including to help fill a 350-million-dollar funding shortfall for areas liberated from Islamic State.
“Everyone should contribute,” he said.

The wind-down will be “well coordinated,” the U.S. top diplomat pledged, without giving a specific timetable.

German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, was one of several officials from Europe, who expressed concerns about a potential “vacuum” in Syria once the U.S. withdraws.

Similarly, Danish Foreign Minister, Anders Samuelsen, urged the U.S. not to pull out before Islamic State was totally defeated.

However, European nations have yet to announce any firm commitments on taking over from the US once it pulls out.

Pompeo warned that Islamic State remains a dangerous threat, saying in particular the group still had a real presence in parts of Iraq.

He said Islamic State had now moved to a phase of “decentralised jihad’’ and the global coalition fighting the group must adapt.

A report this week from the Department of Defence warned that Islamic State is reconstituting itself in rural Iraq and will continue to pose a significant insurgent and terrorist threat.

The extremist group is likely to come back within six months of a wind-down unless there is an alternative source of sustained pressure, the report warned.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, announced over Twitter in December without consultations with the military, sparked the resignation of former Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, who was the lead figure in the war on the extremists.

Fighting against Islamic State in Syria continues to this day, with U.S.-backed local forces, comprised largely of Kurdish and Arab fighters, pushing into the last stronghold still held by the extremists in the far east of the country.

Kurdish forces, and their backers in the U.S. Congress, have increasingly expressed concern that without the U.S. military as a buffer Turkey would follow through on threats to attack them. Trump has been in regular contact with Turkey.

Reports have indicated Trump may want a European or Arab force to act as a buffer in northern Syria and make sure the fight against Islamic State does not lose steam, and to protect the Kurds while ensuring Turkey’s security.

“I don’t think we’re prepared to comment on what might make up an international force in that safe zone because those conversations haven’t been concluded yet,” a senior administration official said.

Pompeo also called on nations around the world to take back foreign fighters, who were captured by forces fighting Islamic State.

The Syrian-Kurds have warned they only have limited capacity to hold suspected terrorists captured in battle.

The president has also angered Iraq by saying he would keep troops in the country to watch Iran, something Baghdad has not approved and which could complicate its carefully balanced relationship with its neighbour.

Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammad al-Hakim said his country would continue to need help of the global coalition to build up its security forces and set in place conditions for internally displaced people to be able to return home.

Al-Hakim also echoed Pompeo’s calls for cash to help stabilise areas freed from Islamic State. (dpa/NNN)
FAT/AFA
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Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

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