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US plans ‘full pullout’ from Syria by end of April

A U.S. Soldier provides security during a coordinated, independent patrol along the demarcation line near a village outside Manbij, Syria, June 26, 2018. The U.S. recently started conducting these patrols with Turkish Military Forces, patrolling on opposite sides of the demarcation line. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Koster)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Pentagon plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria by the end of April, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The report published on February 7 said the withdrawal was due to take place even though the U.S. administration has yet to develop plans to protect allied Kurdish fighters from attack when they leave.

The report cited unidentified current and former U.S. officials.

In response to the report, a State Department official said the United States had “no set timetable for withdrawal of military forces” from Syria. The Defense Department declined to comment.

President Donald Trump surprised U.S. lawmakers and international allies in December by announcing he intended to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, where they are assisting an Arab and Kurdish alliance fighting in some of the last areas held by Islamic State (IS) militants.

Critics have said that the vacuum left by the departure of U.S. troops from Syria could result in a resurgence of IS and Al-Qaeda in the country or neighboring Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal reported that unless the U.S. administration changes course, the military plans to withdraw a significant portion of its forces by mid-March. A full pullout would come by the end of April, the report said.

U.S. officials have been made little progress in reaching agreement with Turkish forces to prevent Kurdish fighters from being attacked, the report said. Ankara accuses Kurds in Syria of having links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

The Wall Street Journal said U.S. officials began briefing European allies on the pullout this week in Washington when they gathered for a conference to discuss future efforts in the fight against IS.