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Gen. Dunford refutes reports of 1,000 US troops staying in Syria

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Dutch media during a press availability at the Binnenhof in the Hague, Jan. 18, 2019. (Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Department of Defense)
March 18, 2019

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford has rejected reports claiming 1,000 U.S. troops will remain in Syria, despite President Donald Trump’s claims that all troops would be withdrawn.

The Joint Staff twitter account tweeted a statement from Dunford, saying, “A claim reported this evening by a major U.S. newspaper that the U.S. military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is factually incorrect.”

“There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence,” the statement continued.

“Further, we continue to conduct detailed military planning with the Turkish General Staff to address Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border,” the statement concluded.

Prior reporting citing anonymous U.S. officials indicated that nearly 1,000 troops would remain in Syria, despite President Trump’s directive to withdraw all U.S. forces.

The anonymous officials told The Wall Street Journal the troops would remain to support Kurdish forces against ISIS.

In December, Trump announced his decision to withdraw at least 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, while also claiming that ISIS had been defeated.

The decision sparked a significant backlash, many claiming ISIS would grow over the vacuum left behind in the absence of U.S. forces, so Trump decided to slow down the withdrawal of troops.

Last month, an administration official told The Washington Post that 400 troops would remain in Syria. Half of those troops would be separated between the U.S. military base in al-Tanf near the Iraq and Jordan border.

The other 200 troops would join a “peacekeeping group” of 800-1,500 troops from European allies in northeast Syria where a safe zone has been established.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, which neighbors Syria to the east.