Trump: US to leave 400 troops in Syria

US President says 400 troops will remain in Syria, including 200 near border with Israel, but says his strategy is unchanged.

Elad Benari,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday disputed the characterization that he had changed his strategy in Syria by leaving some US troops there for a period despite previously announcing that all US troops would be withdrawn.

"No, no. We're leaving 200 people there and 200 in another place closer to Israel," he told reporters on the White House South Lawn when asked if he had reversed course, according to CNN.

One contingent of troops will be stationed in northeast Syria, where they will be part of a multinational force tasked with helping to prevent an ISIS resurgence and helping to prevent clashes between Turkey and America's Kurdish-led Syrian allies.

The remainder will be at At Tanf, Syria, a base near the Syria-Jordan border that allows the US to monitor and target some of the ISIS remnants who operate west of the Euphrates River. The US presence there also denies Iran and its proxies access to a strategic highway connecting Syria and Iraq that runs near the base, a US presence that Iran's adversary Israel is seen as keen on keeping in place.

Trump pulled out a sheet of paper to demonstrate the success against ISIS, showing two maps of the terror group's territorial control in Iraq and Syria, maps he said "just came out 20 minutes ago."

"Election night in 2016, everything red is ISIS," Trump said, pointing to the red on the map.

"Now on the bottom, there is no red," he said, adding, "Actually, a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight."

Trump unexpectedly announced in December that he had ordered the Pentagon to pull all American forces out of Syria within 30 days.

Following the president’s initial order to withdraw from Syria within one month, Trump met with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on the withdrawal, and agreed to stagger the pull-out over a four-month period.

His comments on Wednesday follow a report earlier this week stating that the US is drawing up new plans which would see as many as 1,000 US soldiers remaining in Syria – or roughly half of the force deployed to Syria prior to the December 2018 order.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refuted the report in the Wall Street Journal, calling it "factually incorrect."




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