Wednesday, September 30, 2020

White House says US forces to remain in Syria

Washington, Apr 4 (EFE).- The White House signaled Wednesday that despite President Donald Trump’s stated eagerness to withdraw the US military from Syria, units will remain in the war-torn country until the Islamic State is completely driven out.

The statement was issued after The Washington Post reported that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to begin preparations for withdrawal from Syria, but without fixing a date for the pullout.

“The military mission to eradicate ISIS (Islamic State) in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed. The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated,” the White House.

“We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans. We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges,” the statement concluded.

The president took advantage of a meeting on Tuesday with top US security officials to instruct them to present to him a plan to withdraw from Syria, the Post reported.

Trump, however, would be amenable to leaving a small military contingent in the wartorn Middle Eastern country with the task of training local security forces to take charge of protecting the territories liberated from ISIS.

He emphasized that, in any case, the US presence in Syria will not extend beyond victory over the jihadists.

In recent months, the Pentagon has insisted that its only aim in Syria is to defeat ISIS, taking particular care to say that the departure of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who is backed by Russia, is not an issue that interests the White House.

On Tuesday, Trump once again insisted on withdrawing from Syria, complaining that the US has spent more than $7 trillion in the Middle East over the past 17 years and has gotten “nothing” in return.

The president has mentioned the $7 trillion figure frequently both during his campaign and after taking office, but many experts put the figure for US expenses in the region at about half that starting in Afghanistan in 2001 and including US military endeavors in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria.

At almost the same time that Trump was making his remarks about withdrawing from Syria, however, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of CENTCOM, which is responsible for US military operations in the Middle East, said that the most difficult phase for US troops there is yet to come even though “well over 90 percent” of Syria has been “liberated” from the militants, and noting that “the situation continues to become more and more complex.”

The US has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria.