Pompeo vows US will withdraw troops from Syria

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) holds a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the ministry of foreign affairs in Cairo on January 10, 2019. (AFP photo)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria will go ahead despite criticism from some US and Arab officials.

The top US diplomat was speaking Thursday at a joint press conference in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukry on the third leg of a Middle East tour.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also delivered a scathing rebuke of former US President Barack Obama for his Mideast policies, saying his administration’s “misguided” and “wishful” thinking diminished America’s role in the region.

“In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it,” Pompeo said, without mentioning the former president by name.

Pompeo blamed the previous administration for the rise of the Daesh terror group in Iraq and Syria, as well as the growing influence of Iran in the region.

Iran and Russia have been supporting the Syrian government in its anti-terror operations at the request of Damascus.

Last month, Trump declared victory against Daesh terrorists in Syria and announced to pull out American troops from the country, saying that US troops cannot stay in Syria "forever.”

Trump tweeted Monday that his plans to withdraw US troops from Syria are “no different” than originally announced.

Last week, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton set conditions for a troop departure that could take months, contradicting the president’s insistence that the withdrawal would be immediate and without any conditions.

The US Defense Department has rejected any timetable for withdrawing the roughly 2,000 US troops from Syria.

During his speech, Pompeo praised the Trump administration’s actions across the region for cementing ties with traditional, albeit authoritarian regimes and for imposing new sanctions against Iran.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 landmark Iran nuclear deal and decided to re-impose unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

Under the deal, reached between Iran and six major powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- Tehran agreed to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

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