Erdogan says safe zone on Syria border must be under Turkey's control

Some experts also believe that keeping a number of US troops in Syria could be a sign to encourage other countries to deploy their forces to Syria.

After consulting with State and Defense Department officials, national security adviser John Bolton met with Trump on February 21 and convinced him to agree to commit "a couple hundred" troops, said a senior administration official, who briefed a small group of reporters on February 22 on the plans on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump denied on February 22 that his decision to leave troops in Syria represented a backing off of an earlier pledge to pull all US forces out of the country.

Local residents in northeast Syria say they believe even a limited USA military presence could guarantee a long-lasting peace in their region.

In a televised interview jointly broadcast by CNN Türk and Kanal D, Erdoğan said Turkey is the first country to be affected by the heavy gunfire.

"This is a clear direction to our allies and coalition members that we will be on the ground in some capacity", the senior USA administration official said.

Trump had ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops Syria in December after saying they had defeated Daesh (the so-called IS) militants in Syria.

Senior U.S. lawmakers and military officials recently called on America's allies in Europe to send troops to Syria to partake in protecting an internationally monitored safe zone in the northeastern part of the war-torn country.

An administration official on Friday put the total number of troops to stay at 400, split between a safe zone being negotiated for northeastern Syria and a USA military base at Tanf, near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

The White House did not say where exactly its troops would be based.

Members of the group who spoke to Al-Monitor last month said that USA air power had prevented potential attacks on the group, such as in Afrin, where Turkish airstrikes against civilians past year forced Kurdish fighters to retreat after they defeated IS there. "The resourcing is being adjusted because the threat has been changed", Dunford said. "Because that is my border", Erdogan said.

The Tanf garrison was set up when ISIS fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq.

The partnership between the US and local Kurdish forces has been successful in pushing IS militants from almost all territory they once held since 2014, including their de facto capital, Raqqa.

USA officials have told Reuters that while in Munich last week, Shanahan held a meeting on Syria with a small group of defence ministers.

"The leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues, including operations to defeat ISIS in Syria and the United States' concern with Turkey's potential purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system". Shanahan will meet his Turkish counterpart on Friday.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Thursday that the United States would keep a peacekeeping force of 200 troops in Syria "for a period of time", further muddling the president's timeline for withdrawal.

  • Rogelio Becker