Speaking about Trump's recently announced plans to return US troops back from Syria, the director of the US Joint Staff, Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, noted that "essentially nothing has changed" in the country's policy in the Arab Republic. However, he stated that the US-led coalition is "very close" to completing its mission on Syrian soil, in the fight against the Daesh* terrorist group.
"A lot of great work's been done in Syria. We are very close to reaching an end state against the caliphate," McKenzie said. "We think as we go forward one of the things that we haven't been given is a timeline, and that's actually very effective. And that might have been a problem that we saw before in Afghanistan where we operated against the timeline that was known to the enemy."
Trump's Mixed Signals
The initial March 3 statement by US President Donald Trump, vowing to pull out the country's troops from Syria in the near term, was met with opposition from Trump's special envoy to the US-led coalition, Brett McGurk and a number of top US officials, such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and some others.
McGurk's stance insisted that the coalition's mission in Syria was not over and the US would stay in the country until the terrorist group is defeated. Pompeo and Dunford, in their turn, advised the president against the withdrawal, saying that it would harm the national interests: it would allow Russia, Turkey and Iran to freely pursue their own interests in the region, something which runs counter to the US agenda.
Trump's position includes a compelling argument: the amount of money the United States has spent on operations in Syria and Iraq without gaining anything in return. However, on March 4 he made a small step back, saying that the country's troops in Syria would remain "a little longer," but expressed his desire to withdraw relatively soon.
*Daesh — the terrorist group, banned in numerous countries, including Russia.