The White House has announced that the United States is committed to destroying “the small ISIS presence in Syria,” but that the mission is coming to a “rapid end.”
In addition to this news release, CNN reports that President Donald Trump told his national security team that he’s willing to keep troops in Syria for now, but that he wants them out as soon as possible.
Currently, there are about 2,000 American forces on the ground in Syria.
The statement Wednesday from the Office of the Press Secretary read:
“The military mission to eradicate ISIS 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. 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 news release served to clarify earlier comments by Trump on the war against the Islamic State in Syria. In a speech on March 29, Trump announced that U.S. troops would be leaving Syria “very soon.” However, just a few hours before this announcement, the chief spokesperson for the Pentagon had said that a lot of work had to still be done to prevent the Islamic State from recovering and regrouping.
After Trump’s speech, the State Department said it was not aware of a plan to pull out of Syria, and U.S. Kurdish allies on the ground seemed surprised by the news.
In his speech on Thursday, Trump said:
“By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon — very soon we’re coming out.” He also said that U.S. forces will have soon defeated “100 percent of the caliphate.”
While the Islamic State has been pushed back significantly, it still controls territory in Syria at Dashisha (near the Iraqi border) and near Hajin (near the Euphrates river).
Recently, U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have been increasingly pulled away from helping in the fight against the Islamic State, as Turkish forces attack Kurdish cities near the Syrian border with Turkey.