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  • The announcement was made after a phone call between Trump and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    The announcement was made after a phone call between Trump and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 February 2019

A Trump official noted that the duties of the remaining troops include providing logistics, intelligence, surveillance, and necessary information for directing airstrikes, which falls outside the peacekeeping mission.

The White House announced Thursday its plan to keep a small peacekeeping unit of troops in Syria. The statement retracts U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement in December, in which he declared victory over the Islamic State and said that he would withdraw all 2,000 forces from the country after four years of deployment.

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The announcement was made after a phone call between the U.S. president and president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which the leaders agreed to maintain efforts to create a "safe zone" near the Turkish border. This action marks the second time Trump has come to a major decision regarding Syria after conversing with the Turkish president. 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in an address to the press, said the "small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time." Sanders, however, did not clarify where or how long the troops will remain in the region, or if they would be under the United Nations (UN) authority. 

The UN typically oversees peacekeeping missions in conflict zones.

A Trump official noted that the duties of the remaining troops include providing logistics, intelligence, surveillance, and necessary information for directing airstrikes, which falls outside the peacekeeping mission. Peacekeeping tasks mainly reference maintaining cooperative relations between Turkey and Kurdish-led Surian Democratic Forces, who are the United States' primary ally in the fight against the Islamic State. 

An associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies and former Pentagon official, David Des Roches, charges that other motives, for the announcement, are afoot. "It's not a large number of forces. It's too small to be militarily significant. So it has to be political." 

Trump's announcement to withdraw troops in December garnered both internal and external criticism.

Former defense secretary Jim Mattis, and special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, both resigned in protest. Additionally, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham raised concern of the potential threat of Iran or Russia filling the vacuum that would be created due to the absence of U.S. troops.

European allies also threatened to leave the region if U.S. troops were pulled.  The new announcement encourages France and Britain to keep troops in Syria. 

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