President Trump has approved a new strategy in Syria that indefinitely extends the American military presence there and calls for renewed diplomatic efforts.
The administration will keep the 2,200 U.S. troops currently in Syria there indefinitely and has introduced a new objective to ensure the thorough exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, according to the Washington Post, which cited senior State Department officials. The U.S. also wants to see that a stable Syrian government is put in place.
“We’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year. We’re going to stay in until we have an enduring defeat of [the Islamic State],” said James Jeffrey, recently appointed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “representative for Syria engagement,” according to reports. “We’re not in a hurry to pull out.”
Trump said in April that he wanted to “get out” of Syria.
“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” he said at the time. “Sometimes it’s time to come back home. And we’re thinking about that very seriously.”
U.S. troops in Syria have all but defeated the remains of the Islamic State. The State Department’s new goal of Iranian expulsion, however, arose from fears that Russia is not willing to help remove Iranian forces. The two countries have been allies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the seven-year civil war that has engulfed Syria.
Assad is preparing to recapture the last area held by rebel soldiers, the city of Idlib, which is thought to hold al-Qaeda–linked fighters. The U.S. and United Nations have warned that Russia’s interference in the area would result in massive bloodshed.
The leaders of Iran, Russia, and Turkey met on Friday in Tehran, hoping to defuse the impending clash, but failed to agree on a ceasefire in the area.
The U.S. issued a severe warning to Russia. “The United States will continue to target those who facilitate transactions with the murderous Assad regime and support ISIS,” said Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.