Washington: The US is not reversing course in Syria, President Donald Trump has said as he defended his decision to keep a small number of troops in the war-torn country after the withdrawal of American forces.
Trump agreed to keep about 200 US troops as part of planned multinational force that would maintain a safe zone in northeastern Syria, the official said. This force would be in addition to the 200 troops the US is planning to maintain after the withdrawal at its base in at-Tanf, Syria, the official said.
“I’m not reversing course,” Trump told reporters responding to a question on his decision on keeping some 200 US troops in Syria as against his previous decision on full withdrawal of more than 2,500 troops.
“I have done something that nobody else has been able to do. In another short period of time, like hours, you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It’ll 100 per cent defeated. Nobody’s been able to say that,” Trump said.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t some very bad people walking around and strapping on bombs and all of these things. But we’ve done a job that nobody else has been able to do,” he said.
The US initially planned to only provide air support — not ground troops — to the observer force, but NATO allies objected and said they would not contribute troops toward such a mission without a US troop commitment, the official said.
After consulting with State and Defense Department officials, national security adviser John Bolton met with Trump on Thursday and convinced him to agree to commit “a couple hundred” troops, said a senior administration official, who briefed a small group of reporters on Friday on the plans on condition of anonymity.
Trump said Senator Lindsey Graham congratulating him this morning on having defeated the caliphate. “Frankly, I’m getting a lot of congratulations,” he said.