White House Clarifies: Donald Trump Moving 50 Troops Within Syria, Not Out of the Country

In this Sept. 21, 2019, photo, released by the U.S. Army, a U.S. soldier oversees members of the Syrian Democratic Forces as they demolish a Kurdish fighters' fortification as part of the so-called "safe zone" near the Turkish border. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Goedl via AP)
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Goedl via AP

A Senior White House official clarified Monday that President Donald Trump was not immediately withdrawing troops from Syria, after Trump’s phone call with the Turkish president.

“This does not constitute a withdrawal from Syria. We’re talking about a small number of troops that will move to other bases within Syria,” the official noted, citing 50-100 troops in the region.

The White House arranged for an official to brief reporters in a call after Republicans in the foreign policy establishment universally condemned Trump’s decision, announced on Sunday night and promoted on Twitter on Monday morning.

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

President Donald Trump was informed of the upcoming operation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday night, prompting his announcement that he was moving about 50 American operatives away from the potential conflict zone.

The official was adamant that Trump’s troop movements were not “green lighting” or endorsing the Turkish military campaign against the Kurdish PKK forces.

“The President has made it very clear, publicly and privately, that the United States does not endorse or support any Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” he said.

He criticized a New York Times headline that said that Trump had “endorsed” the operation, noting that it was “irresponsible and doesn’t comport with the reality of the situation.”

The official said that the president ultimately wanted to move troops out of Syria, but that he was not doing it at the moment.

“That remains our ultimate goal, is to get American troops from the Middle East and to let the parties in the region determine their own future,” he said. “But this is not the time for any such move right now. We’re moving 50 troops within Syria.”

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