Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) The White House has announced that a small contingent of US troops will remain in Syria following President Donald Trump’s order for a “full” withdrawal of American military from the war-torn country.
“A small peace keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for (a) period of time,” White House press secretary Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.
In December, Trump ordered staff to execute the “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US military from Syria, declaring that the US had defeated the Islamic State (IS) terror group, reports CNN.
The 200 troops who will remain will be divided between At-Tanf, an area near the Iraq-Jordan border, and northeast Syria, an informed US military official told CNN.
The troops in northeast Syria currently advise the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The 200 remaining US troops would be able to provide unique high-end capabilities — such as logistics, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and calling in airstrikes — that would help encourage coalition countries like France and the UK to also keep their troops in Syria to help ensure the safe zone with a force of some 1,500 international troops, the official said.
CNN reported Monday that the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces is asking the US and its coalition partners to provide air support and keep up to 1,500 troops in Syria as part of an effort to stabilise the country.
Belgian Minister of Defence Didier Reynders said on Thursday during a visit to the Pentagon that European allies were open to proposals but needed a legal mandate for any Syria mission.
Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke in a phone call on Thursday in which they agreed that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria should be carried out in line with common interests, stressing the need to support the political process in the war-torn country.
The US currently has more than 2,000 troops in Syria, where they are primarily helping the Syrian Democratic Forces in their campaign against the IS.
According to the Syrian forces, the IS now retains just 700 square metres of territory in a town along the Euphrates River in Syria.
Trump has not publicly given the Pentagon a firm timetable in which to complete the withdrawal.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command which oversees all US military operations in the region, said earlier this week that Washington is talking to coalition partners to determine the shape of any future security arrangements in Syria.