The United States will likely end its air campaign against Islamic State in Syria when it pulls out troops, U.S. officials said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump defended the planned withdrawal against criticism from allies abroad and at home.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had opposed Trump’s decision on Syria, abruptly announced on Thursday he was resigning after meeting with the president. In a candid letter to Trump, the retired Marine general emphasized the importance of “showing respect” to allies.
NATO allies France and Germany said Washington’s change of course on Syria risks damaging the fight against Islamic State, the militant group that had seized swathes of Iraq and Syria but has now been squeezed to a sliver of Syrian territory.
Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, joined by opposition Democrats, urged the president to reverse course, saying the withdrawal would strengthen the hand of Russia and Iran in Syria and enable a resurgence of Islamic State.