WASHINGTON – The White House said Thursday it is planning to leave about 200 US troops in Syria, signaling a partial refuge from President Trump's announcement in December that he would withdraw all 2000 forces after what he described as victory over the Islamic State .
The move was a concession to Allies and Pentagon officials who claim that a full US withdrawal risks returning to central areas of Syria to the Islamic state. It came Thursday after a phone call between Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, where the two leaders agreed to continue working together to try to create a "safe zone," the White House said.
Ms. Sanders said that "a small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for some time." She did not draft, and it was not clear whether the US forces would be under UN authority, which generally monitors declared peacekeeping missions in combat zones. The Ministry of Defense's officials refused to comment and referred questions to the White House.
But a senior official said the move was aimed at encouraging France and Britain to hold troops in Syria, as well as securing a safe zone near Turkish border.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican South Carolina and a vocal critic of Mr. Trump's earlier revocation decision praised the announcement on Thursday. Leaving a residual force in Syria would "ensure that ISIS does not return and that Iran does not fill the vacuum that would have been left if we fully withdraw" he wrote in a statement published on Twitter in a reference to the Islamic state.
The official of the Trump administration said the troops would be based in northeastern Syria and at a small outpost in Al-Tanf, in the southeastern country, near the border with Iraq and Jordan. Officials said the US forces would provide logistics, intelligence and monitoring to allies and would forward the necessary information to target airstrikes to targets, roles that have nothing to do with peacekeeping.
The US military officials have long been pushing to retain a remaining force in al-Tanf, where US troops have trained Syrian soldiers and monitored Iranian-backed military in the area, leading a major road station for Iranian forces against territory controlled by Syrian government.
The year-long struggle against the Islamic state is believed to enter into its last days. The US-backed Syrian democratic forces have defeated the extremists in the Islamic state's last territory, a Syrian village, called Baghouz, in the Euphrates River valley. Recently, the civilian population has moved into chaos during a war speed, and reports have arisen from some militant abandonment.
The United States deployed land troops to Syria at the end of 2015, after the Islamic state seized land over Iraq and Syria as the extremist leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad, introduced a so-called caliphate of brutality.
Last year, Russia threatened to strike al-Tanf if US forces did not leave. But Moscow stretched out after more US troops arrived at what the Pentagon considered a "strength".
The Department of Defense officials have asked Mr Trump to leave a small contingent of forces in Syria after the majority of the troops withdrew there currently, continuing to work with US-backed Kurdish and Syrian soldiers.
For more than a year, the president has clearly expressed his desire to bring troops home and say they were sent to fight the Islamic state and their mission is almost complete. In an obvious snap decision after a telephone call from December with Erdogan announced Mr. Trump said he wanted to withdraw the troops within a month.
That decision led Jim Mattis, when the defense secretary resigned. It also led Brett McGurk, the special president's envoy to the coalition, to fight the Islamic state.