White House says 200 American troops will remain in Syria

White House says 200 American troops will remain in Syria
U.S. soldiers gather for a brief during a combined joint patrol rehearsal in Manbij, Syria in November. (Source: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zoe Garbarino via AP/U.S. Army)

(CNN/Gray News) - The White House says a small group of U.S. troops will remain in Syria, despite President Donald Trump's recent call for a "full" withdrawal.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday about 200 troops will remain.

It’s still a roughly 90 percent reduction from the current force of more than 2,000 troops in the war-torn nation.

In December, Trump ordered a full and rapid withdrawal of the U.S. military from Syria and declared the defeat of ISIS.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who criticized him for the move, praised him for Thursday's decision to leave behind a peacekeeping force.

“This will ensure ISIS does not return and Iran does not fill the vacuum that would have been left if we completely withdrew,” he said in a statement.

The New York Times reported that a senior administration official said the move was intended to encourage European allies to keep similar-sized forces in Syria as well as secure a “safe zone” near the country’s border with Turkey.

The paper also reported the official said the troops would help conduct military operations such as intelligence-gathering and directing airstrikes, contradicting some the White House label of the troops as a mere peacekeeping force.

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