A full US troop withdrawal from Syria announced by President Trump will go ahead, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart following their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo on January 10, 2019.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart following their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo on January 10, 2019. (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed on Thursday the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria, and urged Middle Eastern nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

"It's time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region," said Pompeo at a keynote address in Cairo.

America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people," he added.

The top US diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington's Middle East policy following President Donald Trump's shock decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria.

Pompeo stressed the pullout would go ahead, despite comments in recent weeks appearing to walk back Trump's decision, but that the US would remain engaged.

The "decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America's crushing campaign," Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

He also met earlier with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, after arriving in Cairo late Wednesday on his longest trip since taking office last year which has already taken him to Jordan, Baghdad and Erbil.

TRT World speaks with political commentator Selim Atalay.

'New beginning' 

In his address entitled "A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East" at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo also took aim at former president Barack Obama without naming him.

Trump's predecessor had "grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism," Pompeo said.

And parroting Obama's words in his landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, Pompeo vowed that now was really "a new beginning" in ties between the US and the Middle East.

Pompeo's tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by Iran and militants.

Even though Daesh has been largely eradicated from Iraq, after capturing a vast swathe of territory in 2014, it still controls a few pockets in war-torn Syria.

TRT World speaks with Scott Lucas, a Professor of International Politics at the Birmingham University. 

Pompeo will also visit Gulf countries including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

As he arrived in Egypt, the State Department described the country as a "steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology that fuels it."

But there are rising concerns that US policy is getting bogged down. A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

And many of the Trump administration's decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

TRT World's Simon Marks has more.

'Middle East even messier' 

"By most accounts, Trump's Middle East policy has made a messy Middle East even messier," Aaron David Miller, a former US diplomat and now an analyst at the Wilson Center, said on Twitter.

"A risk averse president who makes new policy by tweet or phone call surrounded by risk-ready advisers who run cleanup, don't respect deliberation and have objectives that aren't clear or attainable equals US policy (or lack of it) in Syria."

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.

The terms included the total defeat of Daesh – still active in some Syrian regions – and ensuring that YPG/PKK terrorists who fought alongside the Americans would be protected.

"If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses, like 'Turks are massacring Kurds,' which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah has more.

The PKK is considered a terror organisation by the US, EU and Turkey. The YPG is its Syrian wing. 

In the PKK's 30-year campaign of terror against Turkey, some 40,000 people, including women and children, have been killed.

Ankara has long criticised the US working with the terrorist YPG/PKK to fight Daesh in Syria, saying that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.

Bolton's comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump's announcement. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan snubbed Bolton when he visited Ankara to make his case on Tuesday.

Pompeo insisted the two statements were entirely consistent.

"There is no contradiction whatsoever. This is a story made up by the media," said Pompeo, underscoring what he said was Washington's continued commitment to preventing any resurgence by Daesh.

From Cairo, Pompeo is scheduled to head to the capitals of the six Gulf Arab states to make his case.

Source: AFP