The U.S. has started withdrawing its troops from Syria, according to a statement by the White House on Wednesday.
“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced.
Earlier, President Trump said on Twitter that the U.S. has defeated ISIL in Syria, which he said was the “only reason for [the military] being there during the Trump presidency.”
WH: President Trump is honoring promise
In April, Trump announced that over the last year, nearly 100 percent of the territory once controlled by ISIL in Syria and Iraq has been liberated and eliminated. He also said, “as other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”
Concerning the withdrawal of troops from Syria, the White House said the president is honoring his promise.
The Global Coalition against ISIL will not end, the statement mentioned, adding the U.S. and its allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary.
Taking back territory doesn’t mean defeating
U.S. officials have warned that taking back the group’s territory would not be the same as defeating it, Reuters reported.
Some of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress railed against the pullout decision. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said a withdrawal would have “devastating consequences” for the U.S. in the region and throughout the world.
The withdrawal decision also raised eyebrows abroad, reports said.
A British defense minister said he strongly disagreed with Trump that ISIL had been defeated in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would study the decision and would ensure its own security.
In Russia, TASS news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria created prospects for a political settlement.
Currently, about 2,000 U.S. troops are in Syria.