The US president's comments come after his National Security Adviser John Bolton's appeared to contradict Trump's exit plan, tying it to several conditions.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, US on January 6, 2019.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, US on January 6, 2019. (Reuters)

President Donald Trump sought to counter confusion and criticism surrounding his decision to remove American troops from Syria, saying on Monday the fight against Daesh was not over and that withdrawal would take place "at a proper pace" and in a "prudent" manner.

"We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS [Daesh] and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!" Trump tweeted.

Trump's new statement follows a trip by his national security adviser John Bolton to Israel in which he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that withdrawal would not happen before "ISIS [Daesh] is defeated and not able to revive itself." Bolton landed in Turkey on Monday where he is expected to meet Turkish officials on Tuesday to discuss Syria.

It is unclear which of the The New York Times' articles Trump was referring to. 

The New York Times earlier on Monday published a podcast reviewing Trump's plan, as well as a separate story on Sunday stating that John Bolton, the president's national security adviser, appeared to roll back Trump's decision by suggesting the US will not withdraw troops from northeastern Syria unless the Turkish government guarantees it won’t attack the PKK/YPG.

PKK is recognised as a terror organisation by US, Turkey and the EU. YPG is its Syrian branch.

That demand, the Times said, could delay the order by months or years.

"The remarks also reflected the disarray that has surrounded the president’s decision, which took his staff and foreign allies by surprise and drew objections from the Pentagon that it was logistically impossible and strategically unwise," the Times wrote.

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins has more.

Trump's turnabout

The president has come under withering pressure both at home and in allied capitals after previous statements indicating that he considered Daesh vanquished.

A diplomatic storm followed Trump's surprise December announcement that appeared to signal a rapid withdrawal from Syria, where US special forces play an important role in supporting local militias fighting Daesh.

Trump originally claimed in a pre-recorded video announcing his decision that "our boys, our young women, our men — they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now."

"We've won against ISIS [Daesh]," he said at the time. "We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly. We've taken back the land. And now it's time for our troops to come back home."

Allies like Britain and France warned that Daesh was not defeated. Questions were also raised over the fate of factions that Turkey has designated as terrorists but the US supports in Syria.

Bolton's tying the pullout to Turkey's military actions in Syria against 'Kurdish fighters also drew sharp rebukes from Ankara. 

It is "irrational" to say Turkey targets Kurds as the country is fighting Daesh and the PKK/PYD/YPG, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in response to Bolton's remarks.

Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also slammed Bolton's comments on Monday saying, "The fight of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is not against our Kurdish brothers with whom we have shared the same geography and the same bread for centuries.

Our fight in the region is against the PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists who threaten all ethnic and religious groups, particularly our Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen brothers." 

Trump's initial pullout promise also sparked outspoken opposition from within Trump's Republican party and the resignation of respected defence secretary James Mattis.

In Monday's statement, Trump complained that media coverage had skewed his original words, saying that his latest position on Syria was "no different from my original statements."

Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in Syria, which is in the grips of a complex war. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies