The US military is readying plans to keep 1,000 American forces in Syria – a development that comes three months after President Trump announced he wanted a full withdrawal, according to a report on Sunday.
The Trump administration’s talks with Turkey, European allies and US-backed Kurdish fighters haven’t resulted in an agreement to create a safe zone in the country’s northeast where the Kurds are fighting Islamic State terrorists, the Wall Street Journal reported.
After Trump’s December announcement, Turkey threatened to cross the border into Syria and attack the Kurds, a group Ankara accuses of being a terrorist group.
The US will now continue to work with the Kurds, meaning that as many as 1,000 American troops will remain in Syria.
Trump’s initial decision to remove the roughly 2,000 troops prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and criticism from bipartisan lawmakers who accused the president of pulling out before ISIS had been defeated.
Members of Trump’s national security team continued to press the president to get assurances from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to attack the Kurds after the US withdrawal.
After Erdogan refused to do so, Trump decided to keep some troops in Syria.
The larger troop contingent is a nod toward the ability of ISIS to regroup, the report said, adding that US officials estimate that up to 20,000 armed fighters of the extremist group are spread out around the world, including many in sleeper cells in Iraq and Syria.
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