Donald Trump describes Syria as 'sand and death' but sets no timeline for US withdrawal

The US President vowed to protect the Kurds and said Iran is 'in trouble'

epa07258727 US President Donald J. Trump (C) speaks in front of a poster depicting his image, beside US Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt (L) and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (R) during a meeting with members of Trump's Cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 02 January 2019. President Trump used the opportunity to speak on plans to host Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government and funding for border security. Trump also spoke on international affairs and the economy.  EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
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US President Donald Trump dismissed the country of Syria as an area of “sand and death” on Wednesday, but refrained from setting a timeline for the withdrawal of an estimated 2000 US forces from that country.

“Syria was lost long ago”, Mr Trump told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting in the White House. “We are talking about sand and death…We are not talking about vast wealth" he added.

Still, Mr Trump declined to set a timetable for US withdrawal from Syria, reversing an earlier announcement of a fast pullout over a period of 30 days. Instead, the US president is now saying that the withdrawal of US will happen “over a period of time”, and that reports about a four months period were not discussed.

Mr Trump also pledged to protect the Kurdish population in areas under US and Kurdish control in Syria at the moment.

The president last week appeared to link his Syria stance with receiving more financial input from America's Arab allies.

“Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States ... Thanks to Saudi A!" Mr Trump tweeted on Christmas Eve.

However, the last publicly announced Saudi contribution to rebuilding Syria was in August, when Riyadh pledged $100 million to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition for restoring infrastructure in areas of north-eastern Syria recaptured from the extremist militants.

Mr Trump is also facing resistance to his withdrawal plan from his national security team and the State Department, an official familiar with the discussions told The National. The State Department's Syria team led by James Jeffrey and Joel Rayburn and the president's national security adviser John Bolton are advocating a slow pullout, and the Pentagon is preparing a list of options for the president.


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Mr Bolton, Mr Jeffrey and US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford are scheduled to visit Israel and Turkey next week to discuss the withdrawal plan.

On Iran, Mr Trump praised his own strategy, saying that the sanctions have worked and turned it into a different country. “Iran is in trouble” he said.