US to continue Syria air war for now, future unclear
The US military will continue its air campaign in Syria at least in the short term, the Pentagon said Thursday (December 20th), after President Donald Trump declared victory over the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
Trump announced that all US troops would be withdrawn from Syria, but he did not address the air campaign, in which the US and partner nations including France and Britain have spent years pounding ISIS targets across the country.
Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said the US would continue its air war while American soldiers were in Syria -- but she would not say if the campaign would continue afterward.
"As long are there are troops on the ground, the US will conduct airstrikes in support of our forces," Rebarich told AFP.
"As for anything post-US troops on the ground, we will not speculate on future operations," she said.
A US defense official told AFP that "there is not a lot of clarity on the future situation".
"What we do in the air campaign will depend on the situation on the ground, and what partners and allies who are continuing the fight against ISIS do," the official said.
France and Britain have already indicated they will continue counter-ISIS operations.
Meanwhile, two top political leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIS in Syria are in Paris Friday for talks on the planned US military withdrawal.
The Arab-Kurdish alliance asked France for military and diplomatic support, said Ilham Ahmad, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD), the SDF's political arm.
She also said the MSD leaders feared they could "lose control" over foreign extremists being held in Syrian Kurdish jails if ISIS used the US pullout to regroup, or if Turkey pushed ahead with its threatened offensive against the Kurds' self-declared autonomous region.