Around 200 US troops to remain in Syria after pullout: White House

Around 200 US troops to remain in Syria after pullout: White House

WASHINGTON

The US military will keep around 200 troops in Syria after President Donald Trump’s pullout from the war-torn country, the White House said Feb. 21.

"A small peace-keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The announcement comes amid fierce criticism of Trump’s decision to withdraw America’s 2,000 or so troops from Syria by April 30, with members of his own Republican Party blasting the move.

In December, Trump declared victory over ISIL in Syria, even though thousands of jihadists remain and fighting continues around their last holdout.

Sanders did not provide additional details, but the troops’ "peace-keeping" designation could pave the way for European allies to commit forces for such a mission.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan visited Europe last week where he attempted to convince allies to maintain a troop presence in Syria after the US pulls out.

But he struggled to persuade other countries why they should risk their forces with America gone.

Trump earlier Feb. 21 spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the two men discussed Syria, according to a White House summary.

"The two presidents agreed to continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone" in Syria, the readout said.

At the height of its rule, ISIL imposed its brutal ideology on a territory roughly the size of the United Kingdom, attracting thousands of supporters from abroad.

But the jihadists have since lost almost all their territory save for a tiny sliver of around half a square kilometer (a fifth of a square mile) in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz.

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