US President Donald Trump's decision to pull American troops out of Syria "in no way changes anything" in terms of US support and protection of Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday. Pompeo gave the assurance as he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks in Brasilia on the sidelines of the inauguration of Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro. "The decision the president made on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel," Pompeo said.
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"The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continues, and our commitment to Middle East stability and protection of Israel continues in the same way before that decision was made," he said. ISIS is another term for the radical militant Islamic State group (IS).
The fact that the issue was the prime topic of conversation between Pompeo and Netanyahu underlined the uncertainty thrown up by Trump's December 19 decision -- announced on Twitter -- to withdraw US troops from northeast Syria, where they had been battling IS remnants.
"We have a lot to discuss. We're going to be discussing our, the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decision, on Syria," Netanyahu said.
He said the talks would look at "how to intensify even further our intelligence and operational cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East."
Trump's sudden decision sparked turmoil in his administration, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-IS coalition.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group, resigned in protest over President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a US official said, joining Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security figures.
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McGurk had said it would be "reckless" to consider IS defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring American forces home. McGurk decided to speed up his original plan to leave his post in mid-February. Appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump, McGurk said in his resignation letter that the militants were on the run, but not yet defeated, and that the premature pullout of American forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to IS.
(With PTI inputs)