Donald Trump leans toward leaving about 200 US special forces in eastern Syria - Reports
Moscow (Sputnik/UNI) US President Donald Trump is in favor of keeping a small contingent of US troops in eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State terror group (banned in Russia), US media reported, citing a senior US official.
According to The New York Times newspaper, if this time Trump decides to leave several hundred military personnel in eastern Syria, this would be the second case since the beginning of the year when he cancels his own order to withdraw practically all US troops from Syria.
The media outlet's source said that since last week the US president has been thinking about leaving about 200 commandos in northeastern Syria to fight terrorism. It added that US troops were likely to be located along the border with Iraq, outside the safe zone, agreed by US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to the newspaper, in addition to the main goal — to prevent the rise of the Islamic State in Syria or neighboring Iraq — it is important for the United States to assist the Kurds in maintaining control of oil fields in the east.
Three representatives of the presidential administration and the Department of Defense confirmed that senior US politicians and commanders discussed such a plan.
Trump, according to The New York Times, is now hesitating between two decisions, either to achieve the ultimate goal and return the US military from Syria home and end the war or to make sure that the containment and weakening of the IS continues.
According to some officials, Trump may say that the deployment of the small contingent is a reasonable way to ensure security in the region and in the United States, without breaking his promise.
Commenting on the possibility of leaving a small number of military personnel in eastern Syria, the White House said that this was not a change of policy, because the main purpose of the withdrawal was to protect the people.
Trump said on October 7 that the US began to withdraw its troops from northeastern Syria. The head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, said on October 13 that Washington would withdraw another 1,000 troops from Syria.
On October 9, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria.
The offensive is part of Ankara's goal to clear its Syria-facing border area of terrorists and Kurdish militia, which for Ankara are interchangeable, and create a safe zone where Turkey could relocate part of some 3.6 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts. Operation Peace Spring is currently on hold for 120 hours as per the agreement between Ankara and Washington.