Decision made on Syria pullout, announcement soon: US intel chief

US intelligence chief Daniel Coats says a decision has been made on whether to withdraw toops from Syria

Washington (AFP) – The United States has reached a decision on a possible withdrawal of troops from Syria, the top US intelligence official said Wednesday, adding an announcement was imminent.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said President Donald Trump took part in “a significant discussion” with his national security team on the US commitment in Syria at the White House on Tuesday.

“There will be a statement shortly relative to the decision that was made,” Coats said at a breakfast with defense reporters.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants American troops to “get out” of Syria, even as top US officials stressed the need to stay for the long term.

“Our primary mission in terms of Syria was getting rid of ISIS,” Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

“We’ve almost completed that task. And we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do.”

But at the same time Trump was speaking at a news conference with Baltic leaders, the top commander for the war against IS signaled different views. 

General Joe Votel, who leads the military’s Central Command, suggested the US should play a long-term role in Syria in terms of stabilizing the areas freed from IS occupation.

“The hard part I think is in front of us and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, addressing the long term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done,” Votel said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

“Of course there is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase,” he added.

And Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition against IS, stressed the fight against the jihadists was not over.

Trump recently fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and axed HR McMaster as national security adviser, replacing him with hardline Fox News pundit and former UN ambassador John Bolton.