USA pushes North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to join observer force in Syria

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton listens to President Donald Trump talk to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington on Feb. 12

Dunford and Shanahan both declined to confirm the number of troops to stay in Syria. The official said the presumption was that the several hundred troops would be part of an global peacekeeping force.

The White House quietly dropped the news late Thursday that around 200 American "peace-keeping" soldiers would remain in northern Syria indefinitely, amid fierce criticism of Trump's decision to withdraw America's more than 2,000 troops there by April 30. The US President afterwards backtracked his decision, giving the US military four months to pull out the troops.

USA officials told the Associated Press that Mr Trump made the decision to keep some forces on in Syria after being told by European allies that America had to contribute to the on-the-ground observer force in order for them to take part.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said "there is no change in the basic campaign" in Syria as the Trump administration has reversed course on a quick troop pullout. And so White House and Defense officials admit to me that Turkey, U.K., France, Israel, the Kurdish partners all said, don't leave.

The U.S. decision to keep troops in Syria came several days after U.S. European allies reportedly turned down a U.S. request to fill the gap with their troops. The Turkish government considers the Kurdish fighting forces "terrorist".

Following a meeting at the Pentagon, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his U.S. counterpart Patrick Shanahan the USA must not leave an authority gap in Syria when its troops withdraw, according to Turkish state media.

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Akar and Shanahan discussed a "broad range of issues, including bilateral defense cooperation matters, operations to defeat Daesh in Syria and Turkey's concern with U.S. support for the YPG/PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK", according to a readout from Turkish Defense Ministry on Saturday, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS). But since the terrorists were driven out, Tanf has assumed a role as part of a USA strategy to contain Iran's military buildup.

"The transition that we are working towards is stabilization, and to enhance the security capability of local security forces", Shanahan said.

"In addition to Daesh, we have Iran, the Syrian regime and Turkey waiting for the USA troops to leave so they can attack us", Can told VOA, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The Tanf garrison, where the other 200 troops would remain, was set up when Islamic State fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq. "Eighty percent of the operation should be European, maybe 20 percent us", he said.

The US is not seeking a United Nations mandate for the deployment and now does not envision asking North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to sponsor the mission, an administration official said, adding that the troops would not be "peacekeepers", a term that carries restricted rules of engagement.

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