Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

U.S. Will Leave 200 'Peacekeeping' Troops In Syria

U.S. Will Leave 200 'Peacekeeping' Troops In Syria

Last December, Trump made a surprise announcement that the US would be withdrawing all of its troops from Syria and said Daesh had been defeated in the country.

The statement came soon after President Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Mr. Trump's surprise decision prompted the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis and the President has since received strong pushback from lawmakers who worry the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - Kurdish forces who helped in the fight against ISIS - would be threatened by Turkey without U.S. protection.

A USA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public, said that the 200 would be "split down the middle" between Syrian Kurdish-controlled areas in the northeast of the country, and the Tanf garrison in southeast Syria.

"A small peace-keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The two leaders agreed that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria should be carried out in line with common interests, stressing the need to support the political process in the war-torn country, according to Turkish presidential sources.

USA -backed forces have closed in on the last sliver of ISIS territory in Syria.

A senior United States administration official said Trump's decision had been in the works for some time.

"This is a clear direction to our allies and coalition members that we will be on the ground in some capacity", the senior administration official told Reuters news agency.

On Thursday, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan met with his counterpart from Belgium.

Until now, European allies have balked at providing troops unless they received a firm commitment that Washington was still committed to the region.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the initial plan was to have some troops in northeastern Syria and some at Tanf. The official said the total might rise slightly.

The White House did not mention the forces being part of an global force in its statement, nor did it specify where the troops would remain. But since the militants were driven out, Tanf has assumed a role as part of a USA strategy to contain Iran's military buildup.

The need to sort out a security arrangement in north-east Syria was discussed in a meeting between Mr Shanahan and a small group of defence ministers in Munich last week.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking at the Munich Security Conference last week, said the top US general would ask allies to contribute forces to help stabilize areas liberated from Islamic State.

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