“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” President Donald Trump tweeted.
The United States is considering a total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria as it nears the end of its campaign to retake all of the territory once held by Islamic State, U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Such a decision, if confirmed, would upend assumptions about a longer-term U.S. military presence in Syria, which U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior U.S. officials had advocated to help ensure Islamic State cannot re-emerge.
Still, President Donald Trump has previously expressed a strong desire to bring troops home from Syria when possible. On Wednesday, Trump appeared to declare victory against the group and made clear he saw no further grounds for remaining in Syria.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he tweeted.
The timing of the withdrawal was not immediately clear and U.S. officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity did not disclose details about the deliberations, including who was involved. It was unclear how soon a decision could be announced.
The Pentagon and White House declined to comment.
The United States still has about 2,000 troops in Syria, many of them special operations forces working closely with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.
The partnership with the SDF over the past several years has led to the defeat of Islamic State in Syria but outraged NATO ally Turkey, which views Kurdish YPG forces in the alliance as an extension of a militant group fighting inside Turkey.
The deliberations on U.S. troops come as Ankara threatens a new offensive in Syria. To date, U.S. forces in Syria have been seen as a stabilizing factor in the country and have somewhat restrained Turkey’s actions against the SDF.
A complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria would still leave a sizeable U.S. military presence in the region, including about 5,200 troops across the border in Iraq.