U.S. To Leave 200 American Troops In Syria After Pullout

Erdogan Trump discuss Syria economic ties over phone

Erdogan Trump discuss Syria economic ties over phone

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Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria, saying they had defeated Islamic State militants there, even as US -backed Syrian forces continued a final push against the group's last outpost.

In December, the White House said it would pull all 2,000 troops from Syria, a reversal of US policy that reportedly was met with disapproval within the Pentagon, and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign in protest.Troops began withdrawing in January, sparking criticism that the USA was leaving before it had completely eradicated the Islamic State presence there.

The White House has described these troops as peacekeepers that will remain in Syria for a period of time.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Washington's planned troop withdrawal from Syria in a phone call late Thursday. France and Britain, which also have troops in Syria, rebuffed a U.S. request to leave forces there to continue operations against militant remnants and to patrol a "safe zone" along Syria's northeastern border with Turkey unless some United States troops remained.

It's unclear how long the troops will remain there.

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The US official said that Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Shanahan had been in alignment on the plan for several weeks, but had wanted to enter discussions with the Europeans from a position of zero troops remaining, and "potentially go up" as they sought commitments from the allies.

Leaving even a small group of USA troops in Syria could pave the way for European allies to commit hundreds of troops to help set up and observe a potential safe zone in north-east Syria.

Turkey initially proposed the 20-mile safe zone to prevent what it says have been cross-border attacks by fighters of the Peoples' Protection Units, the Kurdish forces that dominate the US-allied Syrian ground force.

On Thursday, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan met with his counterpart from Belgium. Before the meeting, Didier Reynders, Belgium's minister of defense, was asked whether he would be open to keeping troops if there were no American forces left.

"We are waiting for preparation of the withdrawal of USA troops and we are waiting now for more discussions about if it's possible and good collaboration with the defence department, but it was the beginning of the discussion in Munich", Mr Reynders said. In the meeting they talked about needing some sort of security arrangement in northeast Syria after the United States has left. Mr Shanahan is due to meet his Turkish counterpart Friday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham issued a statement applauding Trump's decision to keep a small contingent of USA troops in Syria as part of an worldwide stabilizing force, saying the president had followed sound military advice that would help avoid the problems the United States faced in Iraq.

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