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US to Keep More Troops in Syria If Talks With Ankara Do Not See Progress

US to Keep More Troops in Syria If Talks With Ankara Do Not See Progress

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019 - 08:15
A fighter of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces loads an ammunition belt at a position in the village of Baghouz near Syria's border with Iraq. (AFP)
Washington - Elie Yousef
The United States could increase the number of troops it intends to keep in Syria if no progress was achieved in talks with Turkey on the security zone, US sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The sources' statement came after Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford denied what the Wall Street Journal said in its report on keeping 1,000 US troops in Syria instead of 400.

Earlier, the Journal said US military is crafting plans to “keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria, US officials said, a shift that comes three months after President Trump ordered a complete withdrawal and is far more than the White House originally intended.”

Protracted administration talks with Turkey, European allies and US-backed Kurdish fighters have so far failed to secure an agreement to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria, part of Trump’s plan for leaving Syria, indicated the newspaper, adding that Washington decided to continue working with Kurdish fighters in the country.

In response, Dunford said: “A claim reported this evening by a major US newspaper that the US military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 US 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 US forces to a residual presence.”

However, according to the sources, reaching a dead end on the talks with Turkey, necessitated the decision to increase the number of soldiers.The increase comes in response to pressure exerted by allied countries, which demanded raising the number so that those countries can also announce maintaining sufficient number of forces in Syria alongside Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

France and Britain have stipulated an increase in the number of US forces, especially that Turkey, which insists on taking over the security of the proposed zone in northern Syria, is still planning to carry out an attack on Kurdish forces, and has doubled its coordination with Iran and Iraq against the Kurds.

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