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Trump says US will withdraw from Syria 'very soon'

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would "be coming out of Syria like very soon," just hours after the ...

Posted: Mar 30, 2018 10:06 AM
Updated: Mar 30, 2018 10:06 AM

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would "be coming out of Syria like very soon," just hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future.

"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now," Trump told supporters at an Ohio event on infrastructure.

"We are going to have 100% of the caliphate, as they call it, sometimes referred to as land ... But we are going to be coming out of there real soon. We are going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be," Trump added.

One US defense official directly familiar with the ISIS campaign said it is unclear what the President meant by the comments. The military's current assessment is that now is not the time to consider withdrawal, citing numerous challenges in Syria.

The official pointed to several challenges, including figuring out what to do with the some 400 foreign ISIS fighters currently being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as one example of the obstacles to a US withdrawal.

The official also noted that the US still needed to decide on a policy with regard to the future of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Russia's continued military presence in the county as additional complicating factors.

Senior administration officials have been discussing for some time the way ahead in Syria and what conditions would need to be met to permit a US withdrawal, the official said, but added that while Trump could decide at any time to pull out, military commanders were not recommending that course of action at this time.

A second defense official told CNN earlier that senior officials have had meetings to discuss the US role in Syria and the challenges facing US policy there.

Trump's remarks on pulling out of Syria were made just hours after Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters that "important work remains to guarantee the lasting defeat of these violent extremists" in the country.

Despite Trump's focus on the terror group's dwindling control of territory, White said the military was focused on more than just ISIS-controlled areas, saying "our commitment to win must outlast the so-called physical caliphate, and the warped ideas that guide the calculated cruelty of ISIS."

"We must not relent on ISIS or permit these terrorists to recover from their battlefield loses," she said, noting that the group still poses a threat.

And while Trump said the US would soon have total victory over ISIS, US defense officials have recently publicly acknowledged that progress against ISIS has been largely halted due to Turkey's recent military incursion into Afrin, Syria, an operation that has caused US-backed Kurdish fighters to divert from the ISIS fight.

"The Turkish actions in northern Syria -- let me be specific here -- Afrin area have distracted the (Syrian Democratic Forces) from the fight going against the remnants of ISIS," Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.

"We are no longer in an offensive effort on the ground against them as this has drawn off the attention," Mattis added.

Asked about Trump's comments, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said that she had not seen the comments but was not aware of any plan for the US to pull out.

"As a general matter, this administration looks to other countries to help out," Nauert said.

The President's apparent desire to exit Syria as soon as possible is likely to raise concerns among US allies in the region, particularly the Syrian Democratic Forces, and could embolden the forces of the Syrian regime, Iran, and Turkey, all of whom have mostly resisted attacking US allies in Syria due to concerns about US retaliation.

Trump's comments that the US would "let other people take care of it now" also appeared to call into question US efforts to bring about a ceasefire, condemn regime bombings of civilian areas, or help the various sides in the Syrian civil war to reconcile.

Mattis told reporters in November, "You need to do something about this mess now. Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say good luck on the rest of it."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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