This post may be updated.
Confirming that another chapter of war on terror continues—and disputing claims made by the president as recent as yesterday—the White House on Wednesday issued a statement suggesting there is no end date for U.S. troops to have a presence in Syria.
The new from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders follows comments President Donald Trump made in recent days about U.S. forces in the country, including: "I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home." He also said troops would be out "like very soon," and "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS"— an assessment at odds with that of Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the U.S. Central Command chief, who said Tuesday: "The hard part is in front of us."
"The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed," Huckabee Sanders said, without offering a timeline. "The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated. We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans. We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges."
Media critic Adam Johnson responded to observers framing a troop withdrawal as benefiting Russia, Iran, or Syria by calling such an assessment a recipe for endless war:
The US pulling out of anywhere could be seen as a "win for Russia/Iran/China". It's not clever analysis and a recipe for the US to remain at perma-war until the end of time. That zombie democratic partisans are now repeating it is a sign of just how warped things have gotten.
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) April 4, 2018
Journalist Ben Norton, for his part, commented on the new statement by saying the extended presence of U.S. troops is in no way surprising:
In a surprise to absolutely no one anywhere, the White House has confirmed that thousands of US troops will remain in Syria (with no legal basis whatsoever) despite Trump's opportunistic claims otherwise https://t.co/bVUrDWo3cT
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) April 4, 2018
Respond to the Tuesday's comments by Trump that the U.S. was on the path for withdrawal, Rep. Ro Khanna said they should be welcomed as they indicate the "neocon view of leaving troops there to deal with Iran and Hezbollah is not winning out. Our nation simply cannot afford another war with Iran in the Middle East."
Assad is an evil, brutal dictator. But our call for regime change overextended our military. The last thing our country can afford is another war in the Middle East. A war with Iran would be a terrible idea.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) April 4, 2018
The Pentagon revealed in December that there are about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, roughly four times the number it had previously acknowledged.