U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey said on March 15 that there was no timetable for a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria and stressed that the struggle to defeat ISIS’ ideology would go on.
Speaking to reporters on a video call after attending a Syria humanitarian conference, Jeffery added that ISIS is down to its last few hundred fighters and less than a square kilometer of land. However, he noted that the terrorist group may have thousands of followers in Syria and Iraq.
“We are just about finished with the campaign along the Euphrates to defeat the last territorial holdings of the ‘caliphate’. They’re down to a few hundred fighters and less than a square kilometer of land … We believe that there’s between 15,000 and 20,000 Daesh [ISIS] armed adherents active, although many are in sleeper cells, in Syria and in Iraq,” Reuters quoted Jeffery as saying.
Last December, President Donald Trump announced that all U.S. forces will be withdrawing from Syrian once ISIS is defeated. However, a backlash from the mainstream media, politicians and senior officials in his administration forced him to make a u-turn.
In his most recent statement on the matter, Trump said that the U.S. will be keeping 400 service members in Syria. Half of these troops will establish a safe-zone in northeastern Syria, while the rest will be stationed in the al-Tanaf base to block Baghdad-Damascus highway.
Jeffery’s new statement indicated that Washington may be planning to completely abandon the withdrawal decision and keep all of its forces in Syria. Moscow and Damascus had expected that the decision was not serious.