The U.S. military is moving ahead with its plans to withdraw all troops from Syria, in keeping with a White House directive in December, even though a U.S.-Turkey rift appears likely to delay the pullout, defense officials said.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said this week that the U.S. wouldn’t leave Syria until Turkey promised not to target the U.S.’s Kurdish partners, provoking a furor during his visit to Ankara and throwing the withdrawal plan into turmoil.
But the defense officials said the Pentagon hasn’t received any new direction and until it does, officials are proceeding with withdrawal plans.
Scores of ground troops are headed toward Syria to help move troops out, and a group of naval vessels headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is headed to the region to back up troops at the vulnerable moment they are leaving the country, the officials said. The Kearsarge carries hundreds of Marines, helicopters and other aircraft. “Nothing has changed,” one defense official said. “We don’t take orders from Bolton.”
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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