Syria withdrawal not 'the end of America's fight' against ISIS, Pompeo reassures allies

news
The US May Be On The Final Countdown In Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reassured coalition partners that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was not "the end of America's fight" and called on them to help permanently defeat Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.


Pompeo — addressing foreign ministers and other senior officials from 79 countries that have worked alongside the United States in fighting the militant group in Syria and Iraq — said Islamic State remained a menace.

"The U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America's fight. The fight is one we will continue to wage alongside you," Pompeo said in opening remarks at the State Department. "The drawdown in troops is essentially a tactical change, it is not a change in the mission. It simply represents a new stage in an old fight."

"Our mission is unwavering, but we need your help to accomplish it, just as we've had over the past months and years," Pompeo said. "To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue.

"Those requests are likely to come very soon," he added, without elaborating.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a gathering of foreign ministers aligned toward the defeat of Islamic State at the State Department in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2019. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Warnings by Pompeo and others that Islamic State remained a dangerous threat fly in the face of President Donald Trump's December declaration that the militants had been defeated and the United States would withdraw its roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

The president's sudden decision shocked coalition partners, including an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that has been among the most effective against Islamic State, and prompted the abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Wednesday's meeting was the first of senior coalition officials since Trump, who was scheduled to address delegates in the afternoon, announced U.S. troops would withdraw. Participants included foreign ministers from Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Hakim, speaking after Pompeo, called on countries to help expose Islamic State "sleeper cells" in Iraq and restore stability.

Pompeo said despite progress in fighting Islamic State in Iraq, the group retained a strong presence in that country and was trying to mount a clandestine insurgency.

"The coalition must continue to support the government of Iraq in its efforts to secure the liberated areas of that country," Pompeo said. "Mr. Foreign Minister, we're with you," he told Hakim.

Earlier this week, Trump said it was important to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq so that Washington could keep a close eye on Iran, according to a CBS interview aired on Sunday.

However, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to "watch Iran." The United States and Iran are Iraq's two biggest allies.

On Wednesday, Hakim, apparently responding to Trump's comment, called on countries to show full "respect for the territorial integrity of Iraq and for all operations to take place with the knowledge of Iraq, and in consultations with Iraqi security forces."

Wednesday remarks echoed a warning on Tuesday from a top U.S. general, who said Islamic State would pose an enduring threat following the planned withdrawal.

Army General Joseph Votel, head of a U.S. military command that oversees troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan, said the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that would fuel a menacing insurgency.

"We do have to keep pressure on this network. ... They have the ability of coming back together if we don't," Votel told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

SEE ALSO: CENTCOM Commander Gen. Votel: 'I Was Not Consulted' On Trump's Decision To Leave Syria Commander Gen. Votel: 'I Was Not Consulted' On Trump's Decision To Leave Syria

WATCH NEXT: Vice President Mike Pence: 'ISIS Has Been Defeated'

Guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) Sailors participate in a memorial for the shipÕs namesake, Robert D. Stethem. Navy diver, Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem, who was returning from an assignment in the Middle East, when he was taken hostage aboard TWA 847 commercial airliner. The flight was hijacked by terrorists, and Stethem was shot to death after being tortured by the terrorists on June 15, 1985. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Danny Ewing Jr.)

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police have arrested a 65-year-old Lebanese man suspected of involvement in the 1985 hijacking of a Trans World Airlines (TWA) plane in which a U.S. navy diver was killed.

A Greek police official said on Saturday the suspect had disembarked from a cruise ship on the island of Mykonos on Thursday and that his name came up as being wanted by German authorities.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

SAN DIEGO — John Timothy Earnest didn't hide his smirks as he sat in a San Diego courtroom on Thursday, watching surveillance video of Lori Gilbert-Kaye being shot down inside the lobby of a Poway synagogue.

Earnest also smiled as a synagogue congregant testified about running toward the shooter, screaming "I'm going to kill you!" and seeing the gunman "with a look of astonishment or fear" turn and run.

Earnest, 20, is facing one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the shootings at Chabad of Poway on April 27. He also faces an arson charge related to an Escondido mosque fire in March, when several people who were sleeping inside escaped unharmed.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

Read More Show Less

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is ready to act on its southern border with Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said, after warning that it could take unilateral steps if the U.S. does not establish a "safe zone" in northeast Syria this month.

"Our preparations along our borders are complete," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday before departing to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting.

Read More Show Less