Only the Syrian state can protect groups in northern Syria and the army will “liberate every inch of Syria” from foreign troops, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday.
He did not specifically mention the planned withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from northern Syria, but in a televised speech from Damascus Assad said no one should bet on protection from the Americans.
He appeared to be referring to U.S.-allied Kurdish groups in the north who fear a Turkish assault once American troops withdraw from northeastern Syria. The U.S. has partnered with local Kurdish militias in the fight against the Islamic State group. The extremists are on the verge of territorial defeat in Syria and President Donald Trump has said he wants U.S. troops to leave Syria in the coming months.
Assad suggested the U.S. had sold out its Kurdish partners, and said that the Syrian army will return to the area after the American troop pullout.