Trump agrees to keep US troops in Syria until ISIS is defeated: reports


President Trump has instructed the U.S. military to prepare for a withdrawal from Syria, but has agreed not to pull the roughly 2,000 troops out of the country until the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group is defeated, according to multiple reports.

A senior administration official told NBC News that Trump, in a Tuesday meeting with top national security officials, reluctantly agreed to keep U.S. troops in the war-torn country for an undecided period of time in order to ensure the destruction of the terror group.

“He wasn’t thrilled about it, to say the least,” the official told NBC.

The Washington Post also reported that Trump said U.S. troops could still be kept in the country to train local forces. This would be to ensure ISIS does not move back into areas already liberated from the terrorist group.

Trump, however, stressed that the U.S. military presence would not extend beyond the defeat of ISIS, the Post reported, and has told the Pentagon to prepare for a withdrawal.

Following the reports, the White House issued a statement confirming that the U.S. remained committed to defeating “the small ISIS presence” in the country.

“The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated. We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans. We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis told the president that the battle to oust ISIS from the region was almost complete, but withdrawing U.S. forces now would possibly allow an ISIS resurgence, according to NBC.

Mattis also reportedly told Trump that the Defense Department was already reducing the troop numbers in Syria and that would continue, but he did not give a timeframe for ending the U.S. military mission in the country.

Trump said during the meeting that he expects other countries to help pay for reconstructing liberated areas and possibly keeping areas stable with their own forces, according to the Post.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said earlier Wednesday that the White House would release a statement “shortly” on its decision on whether to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

The reports come a day after Trump said during a news conference that he wants “to bring those troops home” from Syria.

At virtually the same time on Tuesday, however, top military and State Department officials said the U.S.would continue to operate in Syria until the threat of ISIS is dealt with.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition against ISIS, told the forum that “we are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission and our mission isn’t over, and we’re going to complete that mission.”

Trump said during a speech in Ohio last week that U.S. troops would be leaving Syria “soon.”

His comments come after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March, suggested that the U.S. would maintain an indefinite military presence in the country with the goal of eventually ousting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has the backing of Russia and Iran.

Tags Dan Coats Donald Trump ISIS James Mattis Rex Tillerson Syria U.S. military

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