President Putin welcomes US decision to withdraw forces from Syria; SC Sen. Graham demands oversight

National News

BEIRUT (AP) – The Latest on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria (all times local):
    
1:30 p.m.
    
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Israeli military will “intensify” its activity in Syria to prevent Iranian entrenchment following the withdrawal of American forces from the country.
    
Netanyahu spoke Thursday at a joint summit with the leaders of Greece and Cyprus, a day after President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.
    
Netanyahu says Israel will “continue to act very aggressively against Iran’s attempts to entrench in Syria,” adding that it will do so with “complete support and backing from the United States.”
    
Israel has clandestinely carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria over the course of the seven-year civil war to prevent Iranian entrenchment near the border and to keep strategic weaponry from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon.
    
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1 p.m.
    
President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the U.S. decision to withdraw its forces from Syria.
    
Speaking Thursday at his annual news conference, Putin said he agrees with U.S. President Donald Trump, who said Wednesday that the defeat of the Islamic State group removes the need for the U.S. military presence in the country.
    
Putin reaffirmed the long-held Russian argument that the U.S. presence in Syria is illegitimate because it hasn’t been vetted by the U.N. Security Council or approved by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. Putin added that “if the U.S. decided to withdraw its contingent, it has done the right thing.”
    
Russia is a key ally of Assad, and its military intervention beginning in 2015 turned the tide of the war in his favor.
    
The Russian leader says it remains to be seen if the U.S. carries out its intention, noting Washington’s repeated promises to end its 17-year presence in Afghanistan.
    
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11:45 a.m.
    
A U.S.-backed group in Syria has rejected President Donald Trump’s claim that the Islamic State has been defeated and says the withdrawal of U.S. troops would lead to a resurgence of the extremist group.
    
The group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces says in a statement that a premature U.S. troop pullout would have dangerous repercussions and a destabilizing effect on the region.
    
It says Thursday that “the war against Islamic State has not ended and the group has not been defeated.” It was the group’s first response to Trump’s surprise announcement Wednesday that he would be withdrawing all American forces from Syria.
    
The decision has rattled Washington’s Kurdish allies, who are its most reliable partner in Syria and among the most effective ground forces battling the IS group.
    
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11 a.m.
    
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria has rattled Washington’s Kurdish allies, who are its most reliable partner in Syria and among the most effective ground forces battling the Islamic State group.
    
Kurds in northern Syria said commanders and fighters met into the night, discussing their response to Wednesday’s surprise announcement.
    
Arin Sheikmos, a Kurdish journalist and commentator, says “we have every right to be afraid.”
    
The move is widely seen as an abandonment of a loyal ally, one that could prompt Turkey to launch a fresh offensive against the Kurds or drive the Kurds into a new alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and Russia.
    
A Syrian member of parliament, Peter Marjana, said Thursday that a U.S. pullout would be a “recognition that Syria has won.”
 

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