WASHINGTON — The White Home mentioned on Thursday that it plans to depart about 200 American troops in Syria, signaling a partial retreat from President Trump’s announcement in December that he would withdraw all 2,000 forces after what he described as a victory over the Islamic State.
The transfer was a concession to allies and Pentagon officers who’ve argued that a full American withdrawal dangers returning key areas in Syria to the Islamic State. It got here Thursday after a telephone name between Mr. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, throughout which the 2 leaders agreed to proceed working collectively to attempt to create a “protected zone,” the White Home mentioned.
It was the second time in two months that a main navy determination about Syria adopted a telephone name between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan. As with Mr. Trump’s abrupt announcement in December, a terse assertion on Thursday from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White Home press secretary, took Pentagon officers without warning.
Ms. Sanders mentioned that “a small peacekeeping group of about 200 will stay in Syria for a time period.” She didn’t elaborate, and it was not clear if the American forces could be below the authority of the United Nations, which usually oversees declared peacekeeping missions in fight zones. Protection Division officers declined to remark and referred inquiries to the White Home.
However a senior administration official mentioned the transfer was aimed toward encouraging France and Britain to maintain troops in Syria, in addition to to assist safe a protected zone close to the Turkish border.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a vocal critic of Mr. Trump’s earlier withdrawal determination, praised the announcement on Thursday. Leaving a residual drive in Syria would “guarantee ISIS doesn’t return and that Iran doesn’t fill the vacuum that may have been left if we fully withdrew,” he wrote in a press release posted on Twitter, in a reference to the Islamic State.
The senior Trump administration official mentioned the troops could be based mostly in northeast Syria in addition to at a small outpost in al-Tanf, within the nation’s southeast, close to its border with Iraq and Jordan. The official mentioned the American forces would offer logistics, intelligence and surveillance to allies and would relay vital info for steering airstrikes to targets, roles which have little to do with peacekeeping.
United States navy officers have lengthy pushed for protecting a residual drive in al-Tanf, the place American troops have educated Syrian fighters and monitored Iranian-backed militias within the space, a key means station for Iranian forces headed towards territory managed by the Syrian authorities.
The yearslong struggle in opposition to the Islamic State is believed to be getting into its last days. The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have besieged the extremists within the Islamic State’s final strip of territory, a Syrian village referred to as Baghouz, within the Euphrates River Valley. Just lately, civilians have fled the chaos below a torrent of gunfire, and experiences have surfaced of some militants surrendering.
The US deployed floor troops to Syria in late 2015, after the Islamic State seized land throughout Iraq and Syria because the extremists’ chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, imposed a so-called caliphate of brutality.
Final 12 months, Russia threatened to strike al-Tanf if American forces didn’t go away. However Moscow balked after extra American troops arrived in what the Pentagon deemed a “present of drive.”
Protection Division officers have been imploring Mr. Trump to depart a small contingent of forces in Syria after the withdrawal of the majority of the troops who’re presently there, to proceed to work with American-backed Kurdish and Syrian fighters.
For greater than a 12 months, the president has made clear his need to carry troops dwelling, saying they have been despatched to struggle the Islamic State and that their mission has almost been accomplished. In an obvious snap determination after a December telephone name with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Trump introduced that he wished to withdraw the troops inside a month.
That call result in the resignation of Jim Mattis, then the protection secretary. It additionally prompted the resignation of Brett McGurk, the particular presidential envoy to the coalition preventing the Islamic State.