US backtracks on military withdrawal
The American Syria policy is becoming ever more unpredictable and the statements of US decision-makers more unreliable for partners and allies alike. After President Trump announced a withdrawal of US forces from Syria, the American military presence has remained largely unchanged in size. And on February 21st the White House announced plans to maintain a roughly 200-strong “peace-keeping force” in Syria after the US “withdrawal”, somewhat oxymoronic. Some US officials have even stated that the peace-keeping forces will consist of as many as 400 soldiers since Washington also intends to maintain its garrison at Tanf on the Iraqi border. While the delay of the withdrawal announced by Trump in December was officially postponed in January, due to the need to defeat a fiercely resisting Islamic State pocket along the Euphrates (see more below), the sudden announcement of what would presumably be a long-term commitment to peace-keeping was an unexpected reversal of US policy owing to heavy lobbying against Trump’s December statements.