US planning to leave 1K troops in Syria
18 March 2019, 13:33
The U.S. military is reportedly making plans to keep almost 1,000 troops in Syria, several months after President Trump said he was removing all U.S. forces from the country.
Citing U.S. officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the Trump administration plans to continue supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The officials reportedly added that the plan could keep as many as 1,000 forces across the country, but said the specific number of troops that will remain is still being determined.
The U.S. will start withdrawing hundreds of troops after it defeats the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to the Journal.
However, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford denied the accuracy of the report later Sunday.
“A claim reported this evening by a major U.S. newspaper that the U.S. military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is factually incorrect,” Dunford said in a statement.
“There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed since December that ISIS has been fully defeated in the region.
“You kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent, we just took over,” Trump said during remarks to troops last month. “Now it’s 100 percent, we just took over 100 percent caliphate. That means the area of the land. We just have 100 percent.”
Lawmakers in Congress and U.S. officials, however, have maintained that ISIS hasn’t been completely defeated.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the top military commander in charge of the fight against the Islamic State, told CNN last month that ISIS “still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources.”
The move to keep troops in the country comes after Trump in December said he would immediately remove all of the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the country, an announcement that prompted the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The Trump administration then said last month that it was planning to leave about 400 U.S. troops in Syria.
James Jeffrey, the U.S. diplomat who oversees the global campaign against ISIS, told the Journal that the U.S. military presence in Syria a “force for stability” in the region.
“We well understand that an American military presence — and the numbers and functions can go up and down — is a force for stability and collective security in the region,” he said.