U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is due to hold talks Monday in Turkey as the Trump administration seeks assurances that Turkish forces will not target Kurdish fighters allied with American forces.
The visit to Turkey comes a day after Bolton said protection for the Kurdish fighters who have helped battle Islamic State militants was one of the necessary conditions for a U.S. withdrawal of its 2,000 troops in Syria.
“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,” Bolton told reporters Sunday.
WATCH: John Bolton on Turkey-Syria relations
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, known as the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, to be linked to the PKK, a Kurdish group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Bolton said there is no timetable for a U.S. withdrawal, but that the process would not be abrupt. His comments were the first public confirmation that the administration had backed off an initial indication that it would pull out the troops within 30 days.
Bolton said President Donald Trump “wants the ISIS caliphate destroyed,” referring to Islamic State, which once claimed Raqqa in northern Syria as the capital of its religious territory in Syria and Iraq.
Trump overruled U.S. national security officials and surprised allies with his Dec. 19 announcement he was withdrawing the U.S. troops from Syria, where they have carried out air attacks on Islamic State and Syrian positions and advised Kurdish fighters. Trump’s action, meeting a long-time pledge of his to get U.S. troops out of Syria, drew widespread protests, including from Republican lawmakers and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.