Belgian Minister Denies Washington Post Report that Allies Rejected Staying in Syria

Belgian Defense Minister Didier Reynders, center, speaks during a meeting with Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 at the Pentagon in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf
KRISTINA WONG

Belgian Defense Minister Didier Reynders on Thursday denied a Washington Post report that U.S. allies have “rejected” a “Trump administration request” for them to leave troops in Syria as America withdraws its forces.

“I was attending the meetings … no, we didn’t say that,” Reynders told U.S. reporters at the Pentagon before a meeting with U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

It was not clear what meetings he was referring to, but officials from Belgium and other U.S. allies attended a security conference in Munich over the weekend, where they met privately with U.S. officials.

Reynders added, “It was a very open discussion in Munich about that, but without the refusal from all different countries like you said,” he said. “It was the beginning of the discussion in Munich.”

Reynders’ remarks indicated that allies may be amenable to leaving a presence — even without U.S. forces.

The Trump administration has announced the U.S. is withdrawing all troops from Syria by April 30. However, a government official told Breitbart News on Tuesday that the Department is “generating options.”

Separately, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been meeting with allies and urging them to leave a couple hundred of their troops behind, in order to convince President Trump to do the same, to create a “stabilization force” in Syria of 1,500 troops total.

Graham also said in Munich on Friday that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford would ask allies to leave forces behind — which could refer to the “Trump administration request” to leave forces behind.

A Joint Staff spokesperson told Breitbart News on Monday:

U.S. military objectives in Syria remain the same: work with our Coalition and regional partners to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. While significant progress has been made, there is still much work to do.

As the D-ISIS campaign in Syria transitions from liberating territory to enabling local security and addressing the ISIS clandestine insurgency, U.S. ground forces will depart Syria in a deliberate and coordinated manner while we concurrently consult with Allies and partners to implement stabilization efforts.

Those details are being developed now, which will ensure D-ISIS campaign continuity and capitalize on the contributions of the international community to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

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