WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Wednesday that the U.S. military mission in Syria was coming to “a rapid end” but offered no firm timeline for a withdrawal, even as President Donald Trump has insisted it’s time for American troops to return home.
A day after Trump said he wanted to “get out” of Syria, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Islamic State group had been “almost completely destroyed” in the war-torn nation. Trump’s national security team has warned of the risk of the militants’ re-emergence and has urged the president against a hasty withdrawal.
In a brief written statement, Sanders said the U.S. and its partners were committed to eliminating “the small” IS presence not yet defeated by the American-led coalition. In a nod to Trump’s belief that the U.S. is shouldering too much of the cost of stabilizing Syria, Sanders suggested that U.S. efforts in the country would not extend beyond the narrow mission of defeating the extremist group.
“We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans,” Sanders said. “We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges.”
The White House statement came the day after Trump met with national security aides to discuss the future of the U.S. role in Syria. CIA chief Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to be secretary of state, and other advisers strongly advised the president against too quick a withdrawal, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks.
There are currently about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.