The White House says the U.S. mission in Syria has not changed, reiterating that President Donald Trump wants American troops home “as quickly as possible.”
The remarks on April 15 came a day after the United States, along with allies France and Britain, launched air strikes on Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack that killed dozens of people last week.
The missile strikes were seen as a sign of deepening U.S. involvement in the 7-year-old Syria conflict.
But press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump “has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible.”
“We are determined to completely crush [the Islamic State extremist group] and create the conditions that will prevent its return,” she said. “In addition we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region.”
Sanders’ remarks came even as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States would not be pulling troops out of Syria right away, saying U.S. involvement there “is not done.”
Haley said the three U.S. goals for accomplishing its mission were making sure chemical weapons are not used in a way that could harm U.S. national interests, defeating IS militants, and having a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.
“We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things,” she said.
The White House statement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron said he had convinced Trump to stay engaged in Syria “for the long term.”
Macron said that “10 days ago President Trump wanted to withdraw from Syria. We convinced him to remain.”
He added that France wanted to launch a diplomatic initiative over Syria that would include Western powers, Russia, and Turkey.
Meanwhile, Trump on April 15 informed Congress in writing of his decision to order U.S. missile strikes against Syria.
Under the War Powers Resolution, the president must keep Congress informed of such actions.
Trump told lawmakers that he acted to “promote the stability of the region, to deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and to avert a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe.”
With reporting by AP and AFP