France Says It's Too Early to Declare a Victory in Syria

(Bloomberg) -- It’s too early to declare victory over Islamic State in Syria, and U.S. allies want to know the timing and extent of the military withdrawal announced by President Donald Trump, aides to French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.

The French officials said they still don’t know if Trump’s order only covers ground troops in Syria or the U.S. air campaign as well. Macron spoke to the U.S. president Tuesday night after getting wind of the intention to announce the pullout, which Trump eventually did with a tweet, the aides said.

France was the first European country to join the U.S. in launching airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq in 2014, and again when the attacks were extended to Syria the following year. A French artillery unit assisted Iraqi forces in retaking Mosul in 2017. There are also special forces assisting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, but French authorities have never provided details.

“Daesh is not wiped off the map, nor its roots elsewhere,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a Twitter posting Thursday, using the preferred French term for Islamic State. “We must militarily defeat their last pockets of resistance in a definitive manner.”

The aides said French officials have been in touch with their British counterparts, who also have a military presence in Syria. They called Trump’s decision inexplicable and at odds with advice coming from within his own administration.

In his conversation with Trump Tuesday night, Macron asked for guarantees for the security of local Syrian allies and civilians, they said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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