WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US President Donald Trump responded positively to a bipartisan letter from twelve congressmen calling for the US to maintain a small “stabilizing force” in Syria after the withdrawal of the bulk of the 2,000 US troops in the country now.
“I agree 100%. All is being done,” Trump scrawled with a Sharpie across the top of the letter, according to a copy published by The Washington Post on Tuesday.
Trump’s notation marks the first time that the president, himself, has affirmed that the US will maintain forces in Syria after most of them withdraw. It thus ends speculation that the US might leave eastern Syria entirely, allowing other powers, including Turkey, to come into the area.
The twelve congressional signatories, who attended last month’s Munich Security Conference as part of a delegation led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina), noted, “It is a tremendous accomplishment to defeat the caliphate,” but they added, “a stabilizing force, which includes a small contingent of American troops” as well as “ground forces from our European allies” is “essential to ensure stability and prevent the return of ISIS.”
The congressmen suggested that the “numerous bilateral meetings,” which they held at the Munich conference, indicated “there should be willing European participants,” if the US keeps a small force in Syria.
Trump had earlier said that the US would withdraw all troops from Syria, and Graham had clashed with Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, on this issue at the Munich conference.
However, that issue is now resolved, pretty much in accord with what Graham had suggested.
Of particular importance is the letter’s last paragraph.
“We seek to ensure that all of the gains made in Syria are not lost, that ISIS never returns, that Iran is not emboldened,” and we “ensure the best outcome in the Geneva talks on Syria,” it reads.
“An international presence will also help prevent conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces that have been central to the counter-ISIS campaign,” it concludes.
Trump marked that last paragraph as the part to which his comment—”I agree 100%”—refers.
Earlier on Tuesday, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino, responding to a question from Kurdistan 24, spoke similarly.
“A residual force of the United States military is going to remain in northeast Syria as part of a multinational force in order to prevent ISIS resurgence,” Palladino affirmed, and “support stability and security in northeast Syria.”
However, Palladino declined to provide further details, including on troop commitments from allied countries for the multinational force.
Also on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by telephone with Masoud Barzani, former President of the Kurdistan Region and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Pompeo also met Barzani when he visited Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in January.
A statement released by Barzani’s office indicated that Tuesday’s wide-ranging discussion included the situation in Syria. Reportedly, the US is exploring the possibility of enlisting Rojava Peshmerga (Syrian Kurdish fighters, trained in Iraqi Kurdistan) in the local forces that will maintain stability in northeastern Syria after most US troops leave.
Editing by Nadia Riva