The U.S. military mission to eradicate the Daesh terrorist group from Syria "is coming to a rapid end," the White House announced on Tuesday. A spokesperson also said they are considering "local enforcement" for the administration of areas cleared of Daesh.
"The U.S. and its partners are committed to eliminating Daesh in Syria and will continue to consult on future plans," a White House statement said. Also, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "We want to focus on transitioning to local enforcement."
It was not clear what Sander was referring to as "local enforcement," but it is expected to be the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are predominantly led the People's Protection Units (YPG), a PKK affiliate. An Associated Press (AP) article on Tuesday reported that "is it not clear that the U.S. has capable local partners lined up to handle basic security and prevent a total collapse following a precipitous U.S. pullout – a prospect that offers unsettling echoes of the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. As a candidate, [U.S. President Donald] Trump derided President Barack Obama for that decision and argued that the resulting power vacuum enabled the formation of the Islamic State." Islamic State (IS), along with ISIS are other terms for Daesh.
Trump triggered speculation last week about a withdrawal by lamenting that the U.S. had spent $7 trillion fighting in the Middle East. "We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now," he said in a speech. The AP article also suggested that Trump stands alone in his haste to withdraw from Syria as "the Pentagon, the State Department and CIA are all deeply concerned about the potential ramifications if the U.S. leaves behind a power vacuum in Syria, as are Israel, Arab leaders and other nations in the U.S.-led coalition that has fought IS in Iraq and Syria since 2014."
"Our primary mission in terms of Syria was getting rid of ISIS," Trump said. "We've almost completed that task. And we'll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others in the area as to what we'll do."
Following the statement, a senior White House official said Trump agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria a little longer but does not want a long-term commitment. The official added that Trump wants to ensure that Daesh is defeated and wants other countries in the region to step up and help provide stability in Syria.
But at the same time Trump was speaking at a news conference with Baltic leaders, the top commander of the international coalition fighting Daesh signaled different views.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said the U.S. should play a long-term role in Syria in terms of stabilizing the areas formerly controlled by Daesh. "The hard part I think is in front of us and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, addressing the long-term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done," Votel said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.