Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to withdraw American troops out of Syria, the US intends to maintain a presence on the ground with a “small peacekeeping group” for an unspecified “period” of time, the White House said.
“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement without elaborating, Reuters reports.
Trump took the world by surprise back in December, when he announced the US withdrawal from Syria without specifying a timetable.
The initiative was not well received in the Pentagon, even forcing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign after clashing with Trump, as both the generals and politicians have been claiming that US presence in Syria is vital and that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group would inevitably reemerge if all of some 2,000 Americans leave.
The US withdrawal, initially estimated to take some 3-4 month to complete, is being stalled by concerns about potential Turkish incursion into the territories currently controlled by the US-backed Syrian Kurds.
On Thursday, Trump had another phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the issue.
Washington wants Turkey to agree to a buffer ‘safe zone’ in northeastern Syria and is also contemplating arming the Syrian Kurds, despite Ankara’s strong opposition to the move.
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