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US can’t expect Turkey to take its place in Syria: McGurk

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Washington cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States in Syria after the withdrawal of American troops, the former envoy for the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al Jazeera reported.

“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan,” Brett McGurk told CBS in an interview on Sunday.

Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions. On Jan. 10 the Pentagon said the withdrawal process had begun. It started with the removal of equipment, not troops, according to the Pentagon. It is uncertain how long a full withdrawal will take.

On Wednesday a suicide bomb attack took place in the Syrian city of Manbij, killing two US soldiers, an American defense contractor and a US Department of Defense civilian and 15 others.

It was the deadliest attack on US troops since their deployment in Syria in 2014 to assist local forces fighting ISIL.

The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and prompting the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.

“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk said.

“Right now we do not have a plan. It increases the vulnerability of our force. … It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for [ISIL].”

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