Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPoll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability Majority of voters disapprove of execution of Afghanistan withdrawal: poll Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant MORE said Sunday that the United States is "absolutely not" getting out of the Middle East despite the Trump administration's plan to withdraw troops from Syria.
"We’re a force for good," Pompeo said in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group. "The notion of get out doesn’t frankly – doesn’t capture what it is the Trump administration is intending to do. This is about protecting Americans, and we will do the things we need to do to protect America."
Pompeo reiterated that the decision to pull roughly 2,000 troops out of Syria is a "tactical" change that he insisted will not affect the U.S. mission in the region.
"We still have enormous reach there," he said. "We have the capability to do this. And most importantly, we have the direction from the commander, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE, to continue this fight. And even as we sit here today, even as we’re sitting in this room, the campaign in Syria against ISIS continues."
While Trump initially said in December that troops in the war-torn country are "all coming back and they're coming back now," he and other administration officials have since tempered their language surrounding the withdrawal.
National security adviser John Bolton earlier this month said the U.S. would not fully leave the country without the total defeat of ISIS and assurances from Turkey that it will not target U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The decision to withdraw troops was put under fresh scrutiny last week after ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in Syria that killed four Americans.
Vice President Pence said hours after the attack that ISIS had been defeated, and made similar comments on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he was skeptical of whether the U.S. could continue to be effective in the region without a physical presence.
"It takes American leadership and it takes American presence, and we just told the world we're no longer going to be present," he said.