President Donald Trump instructed his military brass to draw up plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria but agreed to keep them in the war-torn country for the short-term, according to multiple reports published Wednesday.
No firm deadline has been set yet for their withdrawal, reports said.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to pull out of Syria, but the proposal has raised alarm among Pentagon leaders who have warned it could jeopardize gains against the Daesh terrorist group.
The White House said in a statement that ongoing anti-Daesh operations have led to the group’s near eradication in Syria and that “is coming to a rapid end” but stressed Washington and its allies “remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.
“We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges.”
She was using another name for Daesh.
Later addressing reporters at the White House, Sanders said the U.S. would continue to work with “local forces” to combat Daesh.
“We’re training the local forces, but we also want all of our allies and partners in the region to step up and do more,” she said. “They’re the ones that are at the greatest risk, so they should be stepping up and doing more. And the president is calling on other countries to do just that.”
A decision was made on the U.S.’s Syria presence during a White House meeting Tuesday, according to one report that cited comments from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Shortly before the meeting, Trump signaled that countries that want the U.S. to remain in Syria may have to pay for the continued military presence, singling out Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom’s officials have indicated they want the U.S. to stay, Trump said, adding he has told them they may have to foot the bill for the continued operations.
“Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision, and I said, ‘well you want us to stay, maybe you’re going to have to pay,’” he told reporters at the White House a day earlier.
“We do a lot of things in this country. We do [them] for a lot of reasons, but it’s very costly for our country and it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us. So we’re going to be making a decision,” he said.
Trump railed against U.S. spending in the region, claiming Washington has gotten “nothing out of” the $7 trillion it spent.
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