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US Military Announces End of Withdrawal from Northern Syria

The United States announced that it has completed its military withdrawal from northeastern Syria, bringing the total number of US troops remaining there to about 600, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The defense secretary stressed that the US retains the capability to bring in and out small numbers of troops as it deems necessary in Syria. But he said the number of troops will hover around 600 for the foreseeable future. He said that if the European NATO allies contribute to the mission in Syria, the number will be reduced even more. “The coalition is still talking a lot; we could see allies wanting voluntary troops,” Esper said, adding that “if an allied country, a NATO country, decided to give us 50 people, I might be able to turn off 50 people.” US President Donald Trump first ordered a troop withdrawal in October. At the time, the troop level was around 1,000. The US military says it is now shifting its focus to blocking a comeback of the so-called Islamic State in Syria. Last October, the US military carried out a raid killing the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.