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Admin to Keep 200 Troops in Syria      02/22 06:13

   The Trump administration, which abruptly announced in December that it was 
pulling out of Syria, said Thursday that it will keep 200 U.S. troops in the 
country for now.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration, which abruptly announced in 
December that it was pulling out of Syria, said Thursday that it will keep 200 
U.S. troops in the country for now.

   "A small peace keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for period of 
time," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a one-sentence 

   Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had harshly criticized Trump's decision to 
pull U.S. forces out of Syria, applauded the president's decision to leave a 
few hundred as part of an "international stabilizing force."

   Graham said it will ensure that Turkey will not get into a conflict with 
Syrian Democratic Forces, which helped the United States fight Islamic State 
militants. Turkey views Kurdish members of the SDF as terrorists.

   Moreover, Graham said leaving a small force in Syria will serve as a check 
on Iranian ambitions and help ensure that IS fighters do not try to return.

   "A safe zone in Syria made up of international forces is the best way to 
achieve our national security objectives of continuing to contain Iran, 
ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS, protecting our Turkish allies, and 
securing the Turkish border with Syria," Graham said.

   Trump's decision to pull 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, which he initially 
said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked U.S. allies and angered the 
Kurds in Syria, who are vulnerable to attack by Turkey. It also prompted the 
resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. 
Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a "betrayal of our 
Kurdish partners."

   The SDF is currently involved in a standoff over the final sliver of land 
held by IS in eastern Syria, close to the Iraq border.

   Many believe the IS threat won't end with the pocket's recapture and an 
insurgency is underway. In a foreboding sign Thursday, the IS claimed 
responsibility for back-to-back suicide attacks that hit a village miles away, 
leaving more than a dozen people dead in a rare targeting of civilians.

   It's unclear where the 200 remaining U.S. troops will be stationed.

   The U.S. military has a limited network of bases inside Syria. Troops work 
mostly out of small camps in remote parts of the country's northeast.

   Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in 
southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian 
opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group. Al-Tanf is on a vital 
road linking Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon 
--- and Israel's doorstep.

   Trump spoke Thursday with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

   "On Syria, the two presidents agreed to continue coordinating on the 
creation of a potential safe zone," the White House said in a statement about 
the call.

   The White House also said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford will be hosting their Turkish 
counterparts in Washington this week for further talks.


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