Emmanuel Macron welcomes Trump's U-turn to keep troops in Syria after pledging withdrawal

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Mr Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 troops in Syria last December after saying ISIS had been defeated in the war-ravaged country. But his abrupt announcement sparked concern among allies and was a factor in the resignation of his defence secretary James Mattis. Mr Macron had personally sought to convince Mr Trump to maintain a military presence in Syria, warning him about the risks of pulling out too early.

Today he welcomed Mr Trump’s reversal, saying: “On the US decision, I can only but welcome this choice.

“The US decision is a good thing. We will continue to operate in the region within the coalition.”

The US will leave about 400 US troops split between two different regions of Syria, a senior administration official said last Friday.

The remaining forces will be stationed in two areas: 200 at the al-Tanf base and around 200 more soldiers in north-eastern Syria as peacekeepers.

Those deployed in the northeast would be a part of a larger contingent, including Washington’s European allies.

A US defence official said the force would also have the aim of preventing an ISIS resurgence in northeast Syria though it is not clear whether they would be involved in training or advising local forces as part of this effort.

The US initially planned to only provide air support to the observer force, but NATO allies objected and said they would not contribute troops toward such a mission without a US troop commitment.

France and the US are both part of the Joint Task Force established by the US-led international coalition against ISIS.

The alliance has been conducting military operations in both Syria and Iraq since 2014.

Mr Trump denied his latest decision amounted to a u-turn.

He said: “I’m not reversing course. I have done something nobody else has been able to do.

“At the same time, we can leave a small force, along with others in the force, whether it’s NATO troops or whoever it might be, so that it doesn’t start up again.

“And I’m okay. It’s a very small, tiny fraction of the people we have and a lot of people like that idea and I’m open to ideas.”

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