Pentagon and State Department officials feigned ignorance when President Trump told a rally Thursday that US troops could soon be leaving Syria. They really shouldn’t have, however, as officials have indicated that Trump has been talking to them about it for at least the last two months.
Trump’s comments reflect his view that the US war in Syria is about ISIS, and with ISIS effectively defeated, it’s time to start bringing the troops home. His advisers are said to have been hectoring him about how the war needs to keep going, trying to sell it to him as being about other non-specific terrorists, or regime change, or just fighting Iran.
The officials apparently believed they’d convinced Trump to keep the war open-ended, which is why other officials have been publicly presenting it as such. Despite thinking this, the signs are that Trump has kept bringing up the idea of leaving Syria in private.
Trump did not provide a specific timeline of leaving Syria, and other officials suggested no decision has been made. With the possibility now publicly out there, it may be that there will be some public debate on US goals in Syria, something that has been absent so far.