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  • In December, President Trump made an extraordinary declaration about U.S. involvement in Syria: "We have won against ISIS. Now, it's time for our troops to come back home."

  • Ignoring advice from his generals and advisers, Trump said that the U.S. would leave Syria.

  • Defense Department officials said that they were ordered to do it within 30 days.

  • [explosion]

  • Then came a flurry of criticism, even from inside his own party.

  • "I believe it is a catastrophic mistake."

  • "This is very disappointing."

  • "It needs to be reconsidered."

  • Then, the resignations.

  • First, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit.

  • And America's chief diplomat in the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, soon followed.

  • But now, the timeline is unclear.

  • "I never said we're doing it that quickly."

  • He went on to say that the U.S. will leave at a proper pace while continuing to fight ISIS, a shift from — “They're all coming back, and they're coming back now.”

  • The nearly eight-year-long war in Syria has left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

  • [explosion]

  • So, how did we get here and what are U.S. forces doing in Syria?

  • In 2011, uprisings rippled through the Middle East.

  • Leaders fell in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

  • And after months of anti-government protests in Syria, the U.S. had a message for President Bashar al-Assad: "This morning, President Obama called on Assad to step aside."

  • He didn't and the conflict escalated.

  • In 2012, Obama warned Assad against using Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons against his own people.

  • "That's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing the use of chemical weapons."

  • A year later, Assad's army launched a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb, killing 1,400 people.

  • [screaming]

  • In response, the U.S. debated airstrikes, but they were avoided when Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons.

  • But a new threat was also emergingISIS.

  • In 2014, the U.S. began supporting rebel groups to fight extremists, while also conducting airstrikes as part of an international coalition.

  • These efforts expanded and the U.S. troop numbers grew from hundreds to the low thousands.

  • In 2016, U.S.-supported fighters took control of the ISIS stronghold of Manbijand in 2017 their de facto capital, Raqqa.

  • There are now around 2,000 American forces in Syria who are largely fighting alongside the Kurdish groups.

  • This has been a problem for America's ally Turkey, which has a long-standing conflict with the Kurds.

  • U.S. troops have had run-ins with Assad's forces as well as groups backed by Russia and Iran.

  • Since taking office, Trump has ordered two strikes on areas controlled by Assad in response to chemical weapons attacks.

  • "We are prepared to sustain this response, until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents."

  • U.S. officials and allies dispute the claim that ISIS has been defeated.

  • They warn that an American departure will weaken U.S. influence in the region and may embolden Russia, Iran and Turkey, who are also on the ground.

  • The other worry? The move may inspire some ISIS fighters to return to Syria.

In December, President Trump made an extraordinary declaration about U.S. involvement in Syria: "We have won against ISIS. Now, it's time for our troops to come back home."

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A Timeline of U.S. Military Involvement in Syria | NYT News

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    April Lu posted on 2019/02/03
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