New York Times: Trump leaning toward keeping few hundred US troops in Syria

If approved, the plan would walk back Trump’s order to the Pentagon earlier this month to withdraw nearly all of the 1,000 US troops from northern Syria. Trump’s announcement about pulling out troops prompted a barrage of criticism from within his own party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

The troops would be kept to combat ISIS and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s oil fields, the official told the Times.

Since last week, Trump has been considering a plan that would be for counter-terrorism efforts and would leave a couple of hundred troops in northeast Syria, near the border with Iraq, a senior administration official told the Times. The official said the President favors this concept.

The senior administration official told the Times it was highly likely US troops would be kept along the Iraqi border area, away from the ceasefire zone that Vice President Mike Pence negotiated with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week. The main goal would be to prevent ISIS from resurging in Syria and Iraq.

Another benefit of the proposal would be helping the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the east, the official said.

The proposal is being discussed among top American policymakers and commanders, according to the Times, which cited three other administration and Defense Department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential military planning.

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

In December, Trump discarded advice from allies and officials and ordered staff to execute the “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US military from Syria, in a sharp reversal from previously stated US policy. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned in December, said in a recent interview with CBS News that he reached his breaking point with the Trump administration after the President decided to withdraw US troops from war-torn Syria.

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