ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – France welcomes the United States’ reversal to keep some troops in Syria, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
“On the US decision, I can only but welcome this choice,” Macron told reporters during a joint press conference in Paris with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih.
The French president described Washington’s decision as “a good thing” and said Paris would “continue to operate in the region within the coalition.”
On Friday, the White House announced that it would leave some 200 troops in eastern Syria, even after the planned withdrawal of the 2,000 US forces now there. Later reports suggested the number was double, with 400 soldiers expected to stay in the war-torn country.
According to Reuters, the American forces would be divided between northeastern Syria and al-Tanf, a town near the Iraqi border that sits astride the main highway from Baghdad to Damascus.
The US position now paves the way for the creation of a security zone, with international observers along the Turkish-Syrian border, after the US withdrawal.
Following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he would withdraw US forces from Syria, the idea of such a security zone, supported by US aircraft controlling the airspace, has emerged as the best way to prevent the Islamic State’s re-emergence. The safe zone is also meant to avoid clashes between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America’s main partner in the war against the Islamic State in Syria.
French President Macron notably slammed Trump’s initial decision and affirmed that allies, especially the Kurdish-led SDF, should not be abandoned.
“I very deeply regret the decision made on Syria,” Macron said while at a press conference in Chad on Dec. 24, 2018.
“To be allies is to fight shoulder to shoulder. It’s the most important thing for a head of state and head of the military. An ally should be dependable.”
France, a vital member of the US-led coalition, has roughly 1,100 troops operating in Iraq and Syria who provide logistics, training, and heavy artillery support as well as fighter jets to strike Islamic State targets.
Its presence in Syria also includes dozens of special forces, military advisers, and some foreign office personnel.