US national security advisor John Bolton said Friday he would visit Turkey and Israel to coordinate on Syria, after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all US forces.
Bolton said he would head in January to both Turkey — which has enthusiastically backed Trump’s sudden move — as well as Israel, a close US ally where the pullout has caused concern.
“We will discuss our continued work confronting security challenges facing allies and partners in the region, including the next phase of the fight against ISIS, as the US begins to bring troops home from Syria,” Bolton tweeted.
Trump last week unexpectedly said he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that the United States had achieved its objective as the Islamic State extremist movement had been “knocked” out.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has lost nearly all of its territory, although thousands of its jihadists are thought to remain in war-battered Syria.
The United States, meanwhile, robustly defended Israel’s right to strike inside Syria after criticism from Russia, which backs President Bashar Assad and will see its clout grow with the US pullout.
Moscow condemned Israel’s alleged Tuesday missile strikes near Damascus, the latest of hundreds of raids Israel says are aimed at Iranian forces and their Hezbollah allies.
“The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism, and we will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
“The commitment of the Trump administration and the American people to ensuring Israel’s security is both enduring and unshakable,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been delighted by Trump’s hard line on Iran and landmark move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but the pullout from Syria has caused unease and concern in the Jewish state.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to meet next week in Brazil with Netanyahu in the wake of the Syria pullout decision, which triggered the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.