Official: White House orders Pentagon to pull troops from Syria immediately

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WASHINGTON (CBS) - The White House has ordered the Pentagon to pull U.S. troops from Syria immediately, a U.S. defense official confirmed to CBS News correspondent David Martin.

President Trump, who has long wanted to withdraw troops from the war-torn region, suggested on Twitter Wednesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is defeated and therefore, there is no reason to be there.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency," Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, without explicitly confirming an order to look to withdraw troops.

But the Pentagon was less definitive, and Mr. Trump's own administration has suggested the battle in Syria isn't over.

"At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region," Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters in a statement.

When reporters asked Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan to comment on the reports of troops withdrawing from Syria, he responded, "I'm not going to make any comments."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and now serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it's "simply not true" ISIS is defeated in Syria.


Two weeks ago, Special Envoy Brett McGurk said the end of ISIS will be a long-term initiative, and "nobody is declaring mission accomplished."

Trump has long expressed a desire to withdraw troops from the war-torn region, but had been urged against rapidly withdrawing U.S. armed forces. The president recently replaced his former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, who opposed the immediate removal of troops, with Gen. Mark Milley.

In April, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the administration had made a decision about whether to pull troops, although White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not say at the time whether that meant troops were coming home.

Reports of the president's intent to withdraw from Syria sparked intense criticism from Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said pulling troops would be an "Obama-like mistake" — something Graham knows would insult the president. Graham told reporters he's meeting with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday.

"If these media reports are true, it will be an Obama-like mistake made by the Trump administration," Graham said in a statement. "While American patience in confronting radical Islam may wane, the radical Islamists' passion to kill Americans and our allies never wavers. After visiting Syria earlier this year, it is abundantly clear the approximately 2,000 American troops stationed there are vital to our national security interests. An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a retiring Republican, told reporters he's heading to the White House Wednesday afternoon to discuss the troops in Syria.