President Donald Trump's decision authorizing about 200 US troops to remain in northeast Syria indefinitely is a key step in creating a larger multinational observer force that can keep the peace and prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group, administration and defense officials said Friday, as USA leaders press North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to join.
Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria, saying they had defeated ISIS terrorists there, even as US -backed Syrian forces continued a final push against the group's last outpost.
"A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
But Shanahan said US allies had not rejected the idea of staying in Syria as an observer force.
The US is not seeking a United Nations mandate for the deployment and now does not envision asking North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to sponsor the mission, an administration official said, adding that the troops would not be "peacekeepers", a term that carries restricted rules of engagement. It was unclear how long the 200 troops would be expected to remain in the area or where exactly they would be deployed.
The details of the continuing American presence in Syria have yet to be worked out, but there are indications that the USA intends to create a safe zone in the northeast, aimed at protecting the US -partnered and mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, who have borne the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State. "The goal is to make sure ISIS doesn't come back".
They said U.S. troops would remain in the area indefinitely to keep their Kurdish allies and Turkish forces from clashing, prevent forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad from seizing the territory and minimise the risk of a resurgence of ISIS.
Currently, there are about 2,000 US troops deployed in Syria.
Any safe zone along Turkey's border with Syria must be under Turkish control, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk. "Everyone is lined up behind a continuing mission and the challenge isn't that the White House doesn't understand what's at stake, the issue is that they're trying to fulfil the President's order while ameliorating the situation".
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The White House announced Thursday that it would keep up to several hundred American military personnel in northeast Syria after the US withdraws most of its troops from the country.
Akar, the Turkish minister, said Ankara did not have a problem with the Kurds in Syria, only with the armed US-backed Kurdish fighters there.
The US official said American troops won't be able to withdraw safely if the SDF is disbanding.
The Tanf garrison was set up when ISIS fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq. The Brits, the French who are there wouldn't do it if the USA left.
A defense official who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity said Turkish and SDF forces would not be involved in the planned safe zone.
The United States last month proposed setting up a security zone in northeastern Syria, a move welcomed by Turkey.
The Turkish defense minister arrived in Washington on Friday.
The White House has clarified its plans for US forces in Syria, now saying it will leave 400 troops in the war-torn country a day after saying the number of "peacekeepers" would be 200.