Kurdish-led Syrian administration cheers Trump decision to leave troops in region

The Kurdish administration that oversees much of northern Syria applauded President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE’s decision to leave 200 troops in Syria after most forces are being pulled out of the country.

“We evaluate the White House decision ... positively,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chairman of foreign relations for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Reuters.

ADVERTISEMENT

The White House announced the plans Thursday evening to keep a “small peacekeeping force” in Syria after the majority of the military’s 2,000-strong force was withdrawn.

“This decision may encourage other European states, particularly our partners in the international coalition against terrorism, to keep forces in the region,” Omar said.

“I believe that keeping a number of American troops and a larger number of [other] coalition troops, with air protection, will play a role in securing stability and protecting the region, too.”

Trump’s declaration in December that he would completely pull the military out of Syria sparked bipartisan backlash and is widely believed to have resulted in the resignations of former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court Former Mattis staffer: Trump 'shooting himself in the foot' on foreign policy MORE and State Department envoy to coalition forces Brett McGurk. 

While politicians in the U.S. expressed concern a withdrawal would cede Syria’s fate to Russia and Iran, the SDF and allied Kurdish groups feared Turkey would use the opportunity to launch an offensive in the area. Ankara has long considered Kurdish groups in the region, including the militia that leads the SDF, to be terrorists.