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Mar 18 2019

No change in Syria withdrawal, U.S. refining plan with Turkey - top general

A top U.S. military official on Sunday contradicted reporting on U.S. troop levels in Syria by a major U.S. news outlet and hinted at a possible Turkish-U.S. safe zone plan.

“A claim reported this evening by a major U.S. newspaper that the U.S. military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is factually incorrect,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement on Sunday evening. “There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President's direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence.”

Hours earlier, the Wall Street Journal had posted a report that quoted an anonymous U.S. official saying Washington was working on plans that would leave up to 1,000 U.S. soldiers in Syria.

Dunford also said U.S. officials had made progress in their talks with Ankara about military cooperation in Syria. In recent weeks, Turkish officials have repeatedly made clear their desire to control the proposed safe zone in northeast Syria, while the U.S. has sought assistance from European allies.

“We continue to conduct detailed military planning with the Turkish General Staff to address Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border,” said Dunford. “Planning to date has been productive and we have an initial concept that will be refined in the coming days.”