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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.

Confirmed Cases: 97049

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
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Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
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Neshoba1580104
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Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
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Scott117627
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Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
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Newton77324
Winston74219
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Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
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Noxubee55116
Smith53615
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Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
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Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136055

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
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Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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