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US to Leave Around 200 Peacekeepers in Syria After Pullout, White House Says

CC0 / Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor / 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria. - Sputnik International
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - About 200 US peacekeepers will remain in Syria after the military withdraws from the country, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for [a] period of time," Sanders said on Thursday as quoted by CBS News.

Earlier, the White House said President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed in a phone conversation a possible creation of a safe zone in northern Syria.

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In addition, senior US Defence Department officials will be hosting their Turkish counterparts this week for talks over the conflict in Syria, according to the White House.

President Donald Trump announced in December that the United States would leave Syria. However, no exact deadline for the return of 2,000 troops has been revealed by US officials yet.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said in a press release that Trump’s plan to leave a small contingent of forces in Syria will ensure that Daesh* will not return.

"I applaud President Trump’s decision to leave a small contingent of American forces in Syria as part of an international stabilizing force," Graham said on Thursday. "This will ensure ISIS [Daesh] does not return and Iran does not fill the vacuum that would have been left if we completely withdrew."

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Graham told defence officials that leaving zero troops in Syria would be the "dumbest" idea he ever heard, media reported on Wednesday. Graham made the comments to US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan during a meeting in Munich on February 15.

The US troops have been operating in Syria as part of an international coalition for about five years without the permission of Syrian authorities or the UN Security Council. The United States has, in particular, supported the Kurdish-led militia controlling the territories to the east of the Euphrates and opposing the Syrian government.

*Daesh, also known as Islamic State or ISIS/ISIL — is a terror group banned in US, Russia and many other countries.

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