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White House says troops will stay in Syria until ISIS is defeated

President Trump has reluctantly agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria until ISIS is defeated.

The White House announced Wednesday that the “United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.”

The U.S. has roughly 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria fighting the terrorist organization. While the group has been forced out of nearly 95% of the territory they once controlled, the remaining fighters could be difficult to deal with, military officials have warned.

The fight against ISIS is coming a “rapid end,” according to the trump administration, but no timetable for withdrawal was offered.

“He wasn’t thrilled about it, to say the least,” an official told NBC News about Trump’s response to the decision, which comes less than 24 hours after the President said publicly he wanted to bring troops home. 

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” Trump said during an press conference at the White House.

Trump’s comments conflicted with views shared his top military advisers, some of whom spoke at a separate event in Washington about the need to stay in Iraq and Syria to finish off the militant group, which once controlled large swaths of territory in both countries.

The White House said that the troops will stay in Syria until “the small ISIS presence” is eradicated.

(Stringer ./REUTERS)

Syria has been torn apart by a brutal civil war over the last seven years that has led to an international presence including Russian and U.S. air support and the alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned last month that the U.S. may be forced to maintain an indefinite military presence in the country if Syrian president Bashar Assad remains in power. Assad has the backing of both Russia and Iran.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met Wednesday, holding their second summit to discuss Syria’s future. Turkish forces are also in the country, fighing the U.S.-backed Peoples’ Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey considers to be terrorists.

 Asked about a possible U.S. pullout, Rouhani said the idea of Americans leaving Syria is being floated to solicit money from countries that want them to remain there.

“One day they say they want to pullout of Syria …, then it turns out that they are craving money,” he said. “They have told Arab countries to give them money to remain in Syria.” 

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