Trump agrees to keep U.S. troops in Syria a ‘little longer,’ but wants out

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump agreed in a National Security Council meeting this week to keep U.S. troops in Syria a little longer to defeat Islamic State but wants them out relatively soon, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

A U.S. fighter stands near a military vehicle, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Trump did not approve a specific withdrawal timetable at Tuesday’s meeting, the official said. He wants to ensure Islamic State militants are defeated but wants other countries in the region and the United Nations to step up and help provide stability in Syria, the official said.

“We’re not going to immediately withdraw but neither is the president willing to back a long-term commitment,” the official said.

Trump had signaled his desire to get U.S. forces out of Syria in a speech last Thursday in Ohio, and officials said he had privately been pressing for an early withdrawal in talks with his national security aides.

Trump told a news conference on Tuesday with Baltic leaders that the United States was very successful against Islamic State but that “sometimes it’s time to come back home.”

His advisers have been urging him to maintain at least a small force in Syria to ensure the militants are defeated and to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ally Iran from gaining an important foothold.

The United States is waging air strikes in Syria and has deployed about 2,000 troops on the ground,…

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