The United States is now planning to leave as many as 1,000 troops in Syria, reported The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, citing U.S. officials.
The increase in numbers—an initial 200 was cited, then 400 troops remaining—exemplifies what has been an apparent reversal since U.S. President Donald Trump announced in December that all 2,000 U.S. troops will withdraw from Syria.
But the decision led to an immediate backlash from both congressional Republicans and Democrats, and the Jewish and pro-Israel community, fearing that withdrawal would leave a vacuum and empower Iran and its proxies, in addition to Turkey, to threaten northern Israel and Kurdish allies.
The administration announced last month that 400 troops would remain with half serving as a peacekeeping force in northeast Syria and the other half stationed at the U.S. military base at al-Tanf in the southeastern part of the country to, as Trump told CBS News, “watch” Iran and “protect Israel.”
James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy for Syria who also oversees the global coalition against the Islamic State, told the Journal that the U.S. military presence in Syria represents a “force for stability” in the area.