200 US troops will remain in Syria after “withdrawal”; Europeans say they won’t stay if US leaves, so US will keep small force to anchor them

The US says that 200 troops will remain in Syria as part of a peacekeeping force. The US had announced a withdrawal on December 19 and then on December 24 Trump had hammered it home at a speech in Iraq. Then the US said that a buffer zone might be created and Lindsey Graham and others had called on the US to slow the withdrawal. Others called on Trump not to abandon US allies, including the SDF and Kurdish forces.

Turkey, which had threatened an operation, has been watching carefully. The US called on Coalition partners to increase their troop levels, first in late January, then at the Coalition meeting on February 6 and then in Warsaw and Munich, but the European powers indicated they probably would not increase troop levels if the US leave. The Washington Post reported on February 21 that the Europeans wouldn’t increase troops or even stay if the US left.

“A small peace keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for period of time,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a one-sentence statement.

Graham welcomed the decision to keep this “international stabilizing force.”

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Reuters reported: “We evaluate the White House decision … positively,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the region held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, told Reuters.

It now appears that the small group of US forces staying behind will anchor a large contingent of international forces that may remain

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