Trump says Israel, Jordan asked him to keep US troops in Syria

Pentagon chief Mark Esper said he’s considering leaving an additional contingent in eastern Syria to work with Syrian Kurdish fighters to combat ISIS.

By Associated Press

American President Donald Trump says he still wants to get all U.S. troops out of Syria, but Israel and Jordan have asked him to keep some there.

Just last week, Trump said the roughly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria will go home, leaving about 200 at a base in the southeast of the country. Then officials said the bulk of the troops would shift to Iraq.

Trump’s Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, said Monday that he is considering the possibility of leaving an additional contingent in eastern Syria to work with Syrian Kurdish fighters to combat the Islamic State.

Trump also told reporters at the White House Monday that the U.S. would “work something out” with the Kurds in eastern Syria to ensure they have access to income from Syrian oil. He suggested sending an American oil company there to help.

Earlier in the day, Esper said he was discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and continue the fight against ISIS terrorists.

Trump has insisted he’s bringing home Americans from “endless wars” in the Mideast, but Esper says all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq.

The Pentagon chief said the plan for was still in the discussion phase. Trump has repeatedly said the Islamic State has been defeated and has portrayed the withdrawal of American support for Kurdish forces as part of his larger goal of bringing troops home from the Middle East.

Esper emphasized that the proposal to leave a small number of troops in eastern Syria was intended to give the president “maneuver room” and wasn’t final.