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U.S. Security Adviser To Meet With Turkish Officials On Syria Withdrawal Plans

Kurdish fighters chat with members of U.S. forces in the town of Darbasiya, Syria, on April 29, 2017.
Kurdish fighters chat with members of U.S. forces in the town of Darbasiya, Syria, on April 29, 2017.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser is set to hold talks with Turkish defense and intelligence officials to try and clarify growing questions about U.S. intentions in Syria.

John Bolton's visit to Ankara parallels a similar trip to the region by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and follows Trump's abrupt announcement that he was ordering 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria.

Bolton is expected to meet Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan on January 8.

Trump's announcement stunned many U.S. allies, and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. U.S. officials and others fear that a U.S. pullout could destabilize Syria further, and lead to the slaughter of Kurdish militias who have been fighting alongside U.S. forces.

Prior to visiting Turkey, Bolton traveled to Israel, which has also been concerned about a U.S. withdrawal.

In Jerusalem, Bolton walked back Trump's initial announcement, saying instead that the United States wanted to ensure that Islamic State "is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again."

But he also said Turkey must agree to protect the U.S. Kurdish allies.

Meanwhile, In an opinion piece published by the New York Times January 7, Turkey's president warned that the U.S. withdrawal must be planned carefully, and with the right partners.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was the only country "with the power and commitment to perform that task." He also wrote that Turkey was committed to defeating Islamic State and "other terrorist groups" in Syria.

In comments broadcast January 7 on CNBC TV, Pompeo said that Erdogan had promised to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria

Pompeo is traveling to visit eight Arab capitals to discuss Syria, as well as discuss U.S. efforts to contain regional power Iran.

The US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkish authorities consider them linked with a Kurdish terrorist group, PKK.

With reporting by AFP, New York Times, AP