BRASILIA (AFP) - 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 (Jan 1).
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.
"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 refers to the radical militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.
The fact that the issue was the prime topic of conversation between Pompeo and Netanyahu underlined the uncertainty thrown up by Trump's Dec 19 decision - announced on Twitter - to withdraw US troops from northeast Syria, where they had been battling ISIS 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 abrupt decision on Syria stunned regional players, US politicians of both parties and military leaders, who expressed surprise that such a major decision would be announced after apparently so little advance consultation, against the advice of his national security advisers - and on Twitter.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigned following the announcement, which came on the same day that US officials said Trump was also planning a significant drawdown in Afghanistan, with some reports suggesting as many as half of the 14,000 troops could leave.