Pence on Syria: 'Our troops are coming home'

Pence on Syria: 'Our troops are coming home'
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Vice President Pence said Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE is following through on his promise to bring U.S. troops home from Syria and talked up the prospect of a permanent ceasefire in the region.

Pence insisted that a ceasefire the administration helped broker between Turkey and Syria last week “has held” and claimed Trump’s own moves had paved the way for the possibility of a permanent ceasefire.

“Earlier today, we received word from the Syrian defense forces commander that all of their military forces have withdrawn from the safe zone under Turkish military control and before I came here, our team was continuing in communicating with both sides in hope that a permanent ceasefire could soon take hold,” Pence said in remarks at the Heritage Foundation’s Honors Gala in Washington, D.C. “Those discussions are ongoing.”

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“Thanks to the strong leadership from President Donald Trump, we have an opportunity for a permanent ceasefire,” Pence continued, adding, “our troops are coming home.”

Pence also insisted that the United States is grateful to Kurdish allies for their assistance in the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS), but said it was time to withdraw U.S. forces after eroding the “last inch” of ISIS territory.

“America will always be grateful for our Kurdish allies and the Syria defense forces who fought shoulder to shoulder and bravely with us in this fight,” Pence told the crowd.

“Now that our military and our allies have achieved our objectives against ISIS, President Trump is keeping his word to the American people and our troops are starting to come home,” he said.

Trump has faced a barrage of criticism, including from Republicans, for his decision weeks ago to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of an impending Turkish military operation in Kurdish-held territory there.

Many have accused Trump of green-lighting the operation – a narrative his administration has sought to push back on – and raised concerns about the possibility ISIS could resurge in the region.

Trump has also faced criticism for effectively abandoning the Kurds, and he has responded to the criticism by downplaying the alliance and describing the Kurds as “no angels.”

Amid backlash, Trump announced sanctions on Turkey as it launched the offensive against the Kurds, while Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDemocrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE traveled to Ankara last week to help broker the temporary ceasefire deal.

The Trump administration officials announced the agreement last Thursday, however both Turkey and the Kurds have since accused the other side of violating the pause in fighting.

Ahead of Pence’s remarks, news broke that Russia and Turkey had reached an agreement on joint patrols in areas of Syria to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from a Turkish-controlled “safe zone.”

Trump on Monday signaled a willingness to leave a small number of U.S. troops in Syria in order to ensure oil fields do not fall into the hands of ISIS, while insisting he doesn’t want to leave U.S. forces in harm's way.

"I don't think it's going to be necessary. I don't want to leave any troops there. That's very dangerous territory," Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. "I don't think it's necessary other than we secure the oil. It's a little different section, but we need to secure the oil."