Political settlement possible after US leaves Syria says Russia

President Trump's public announcement to withdraw US troops met with surprise, support and scepticism

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo
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President Donald Trump’s public announcement he would rapidly pull 2000 US troops out of Syria amid a supposed ISIS defeat has been greeted by a mixed reaction.

Russia a staunch supporter of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, said the move could pave the way to political progress.

“A milestone story which might evolve from this decision is a real prospect for a political solution," said spokesman Maria Zakharova, according to the TASS news agency.

"Hope emerges that this location on the Syrian map will follow the example of Aleppo and other Syrian towns and villages which begin getting back to peaceful life. Once Americans were there, there was no such hope,” she added.

However, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is largely supportive of Mr Trump, decried it as a “Obama-like mistake.” He suggested it could embolden ISIS to return and undercut the efforts of US-supported Kurdish forces, who are currently fighting the extremists.

Tobias Ellwood, a minister at the UK’s Ministry of Defence, said in response to Mr Trump’s claims that ISIS had been finished: “I strongly disagree. (ISIS) has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive."

Mr Trump had earlier said in the day his only reason for being in Syria was due to ISIS but advisers reportedly wanted him to keep some soldiers back over fears terrorists could return. There are also US concerns Iran, also a supporter of the Syrian Regime but opposed by the Trump administration, could extend its control across the region.

The US-led coalition has given its support to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, who have led the offensive against ISIS in Syria.

The Pentagon appeared more sceptical, admitting troops would be withdrawn but saying: "The Coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over.”

Despite Mr Trump’s claims ISIS has now been cleansed from its remaining areas of population control, fighters continue to roam pockets of Syria’s vast, ungovernable desert as well as neighbouring Iraq. It also retains tribal support and can count on a proxy of sleeper cells.