Votel, traveling to the Middle East for his farewell tour, said that the United States could begin withdrawing its ground troops from Syria within weeks. Nevertheless, he stressed that timing will depend on the situation in Syria.
Votel’s remarks come in light of massive developments linked to clearing the last ISIS pockets in northeastern Syria and the ongoing talks between Washington and Ankara on the future of the region post a US withdrawal.
While Col. Ryan declined to speculate on the outcomes of meetings held with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar during his visit to Washington, other media sources said that the top Ankara security chief would discuss the following files: The S-400 missiles deal with Russia, establishing a security zone on borders with the Syrian border, and the fate of the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Media outlets also said that the US has grown stronger in its disapproval to the Turkish-Russian deal on the S-400 missile systems, and has urged Turkey to abandon the deal since it violates protocols of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a defense alliance by which Ankara is held accountable.
On the security zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, sources said that Washington had offered a security zone that went only 20 km deep into Syria, and that the debate at the moment was over who would supervise such an area.
While Turkey insists it will take charge of the area, Washington says it will be under the supervision of local, Arab and Western mixed forces.
The region must be demilitarized and free from heavy weapons by all parties, including the Turkish side, Gen. Votel was quoted as saying.
On the fate of the US-backed SDF, sources explained that Turkey has requested their withdrawal from the region, while Washington informed Ankara that the Kurdish-led force would not be dispensed with and that US forces would continue to provide air support from its nearby bases remaining in logistical and field liaison with the SDF.