Trump’s talk of a Syria pullout nothing new

By: AP | Washington | Published: March 31, 2018 2:41 pm

President Donald Trump walks down the stairs of Air Force One during his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport, in West Palm Beach, Fla.,Thursday, March 29, 2018. Trump is spending the weekend at his his Mar-a-Lago estate. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump’s unscripted remark this week about pulling out of Syria “very soon,” while at odds with his own policy, was not a one-off: For weeks, top advisers have been fretting about an overly hasty withdrawal as the president has increasingly told them privately he wants out, U.S. officials said.

Only two months ago, Trump’s aides thought they’d persuaded him that the U.S. needed to keep its presence in Syria open-ended _ not only because the Islamic State group has yet to be entirely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum could be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump signed off on major speech in January in which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the new strategy and declared “it is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria.”

But by mid-February, Trump was telling his top aides in meetings that as soon as victory can be declared against IS, he wanted American troops out of Syria, said the officials. Alarm bells went off…

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