WASHINGTON – The White House announced Thursday it would allow about 200 American troops in Syria, signaling a partial withdrawal of President Trump's announcement in December that he will withdraw all 2,000 troops after seeing it as a victory over the Islamic had designated State.
The move was a concession to Pentagon allies and officials who argued that a full American withdrawal could risk the return of key areas in Syria to the Islamic State. It came on Thursday after a phone call between Mr. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from Turkey, where the two leaders agreed to continue working together to try to create a "safe zone," the White House said.
Ms. Sanders said that "a small group of 200 peacekeepers will remain in Syria for a period of time." It did not elaborate on it, and it was not clear whether the American forces would be under the authority of the United Nations, which would generally oversee the oversight of peacekeeping missions in combat zones. Representatives of the Department of Defense refused to comment and asked questions to the White House.
However, a senior government official said the move was aimed at encouraging France and Britain to keep troops in Syria and help secure a safe zone near the Turks border.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a vociferous critic of Mr. Trump's earlier resignation decision, praised the announcement on Thursday. Leaving a remaining force in Syria would "ensure that IS does not come back and that Iran does not fill the vacuum that would remain in a complete retreat." he wrote in a statement released on Twitter Reference to the Islamic state.
High-ranking Trump government official said the troops were located in northeastern Syria and at a small outpost in al-Tanf in the southeast of the country near the border with Iraq and Jordan. The official said American forces would provide logistics, intelligence and surveillance to allies and provide necessary information to direct air strikes to targets, roles that have little to do with peacekeeping.
US military forces have long been pressing for residual power In al-Tanf, where US troops have trained Syrian fighters and overseen Iran-backed militias in the area, it is an important station for Iranian troops, which is heading for a territory controlled by the Syrian government.
The years-long struggle against the Islamic state is believed to enter its last days. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have besieged the extremists in the last territory of the Islamic state, a Syrian village called Baghouz in the Euphrates Valley. Recently, civilians have fled chaos under a barrage of gunfire and reportedly some militants have been abandoned.
The United States sent ground troops to Syria in late 2015 after the Islamic State conquered land throughout Iraq and Syria As the extremist leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi imposed a so-called caliphate of brutality.
Last year, Russia threatened to attack al-Tanf if US troops did not go. However, Moscow resisted after more American troops arrived in a Pentagon "force demonstration" army.
Defense Department officials urged Mr. Trump to leave a small contingent in Syria after the withdrawal of most of the troops that are currently there to continue working with US-backed Kurdish and Syrian fighters.
For more than a year, the President has made clear his desire to bring troops home and said they have been sent to fight the Islamic State and that their mission is almost completed. In an obvious quick decision after a phone call with Erdogan in December, Trump announced that he wants to withdraw the troops within a month.
This decision led to the resignation of Jim Mattis, the then Secretary of Defense. This also prompted the resignation of Brett McGurk, the Special Representative of the Coalition President against the Islamic State.