President Donald Trump has put the brakes on $200 million scheduled to be spent on recovery efforts in Syria, according to multiple published reports.
The reports come shortly after Trump said American troops may be leaving Syria “very soon.”
The Wall Street Journal initially reported the freeze, characterizing it as a retrenchment of the U.S. role in Syria that had been envisaged during the tenure of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson had made the commitment in February.
Trump’s action was triggered by a news account he read that reported the funds had been committed, according to Politico, which cited what it said was an unnamed State Department source..
ABC News also reported that Syria will not get the money, and quoted a State Department statement saying, in part, “In line with the President’s request to review all international assistance, we continually reevaluate appropriate assistance levels and how best they might be utilized.”
The New York Times noted that the decision might not be final.
“There will be meetings on this next week,” an unnamed source told the paper. “Obviously, we, State, hope that this decision is reversed.”
As Trump looked to the future, violence continued in Syria, which is torn by a protracted contest between Syrian rebels and the Russian-backed government of Bashar al-Assad, as well as attacks from the Islamic State group.
One American soldier and one British soldier were killed this week in an IED blast, The Times reported. Five other soldiers in the coalition fighting the Islamic State were wounded.
The identity of the soldiers were not yet released, The Washington Post reported.
On Thursday, Trump has told a rally in Ohio that America’s boots-on-the-ground presence in Syria was not open-ended.
“Very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said. “We’re going to have 100 percent of the caliphate, as they call it — sometimes referred to as ‘land’ — taking it all back quickly, quickly.”
Trump has long opposed a policy of nation building, as he told his Ohio supporters.
“We spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. And you know what we have for it? Nothing,” Trump said, according to France 24.
The Post quoted an unnamed administration official as labeling Trump’s Ohio comments “premature,” but also reported that Trump has been discussing a pullout from Syria as the war against the Islamic State continues to push the terror group out of territory it formerly controlled.
The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria fighting the Islamic State group, according to The Hill.
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