The White House is preparing to announce its decision on whether U.S. troops will remain in Syria “relatively soon,” the head of the U.S. intelligence community said Wednesday.
According to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, President Donald Trump made the decision Tuesday during a meeting of the National Security Council.
Coats’ statement comes just one day after Trump advocated pulling U.S. troops out of the country.
“I want to get out,” Trump said. “I want to bring the troops home.”
The president argued that the primary U.S. mission to defeat ISIS in Syria was nearly complete.
“We’ve almost completed that task, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others as to what we’ll do,” Trump said.
The week prior Trump also said he believed the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria could be withdrawn “very soon.”
The Washington Post Wednesday, citing a senior administration official, reported that Trump has in fact instructed military leaders to prepare to remove U.S. troops, but has not set a date.
The move, however, would allow some troops to remain in order to train other fighters on the ground.
“In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State…” the Post states.
NBC has reported though that Trump has agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria for an undetermined period of time until ISIS has been fully defeated.
“He wasn’t thrilled about it, to say the least,” a senior administration official said.
The White House alleged in a statement Wednesday that the Syria mission was close to its end.
“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,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
“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.”
While the White House has yet to reveal their decision officially, the president has received pushback for his apparent support of leaving the war-torn country.
Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition against ISIS, argued during a forum at the U.S. Institute of Peace Tuesday that the mission to defeat ISIS has not been completed.
“We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission, and our mission isn’t over, and we are going to complete that mission,” McGurk said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also claimed earlier this week that a withdrawal from Syria would lead to an ISIS resurgence.
“It’d be the single worst decision the president could make,” Graham said on Fox News Sunday.
Trump has also repeatedly decried the cost of the country’s Middle East foreign policy to U.S. taxpayers.
The current situation bears resemblance to Trump’s remarks toward Afghanistan last year in which he similarly advocated for removing U.S. troops. The president in the end opted to keep U.S. boots on the ground for the foreseeable future.
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