WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (CGTN) -- The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said Thursday following Trump's phone call to Turkey's Erdogan.
"A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a brief statement.
In December, Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, declaring that ISIL had been defeated there. He decided to leave some troops due to pressures from advisors who tend to ensure the protection of Kurdish forces who supported the fight against ISIL and who might now be threatened by Turkey.
The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Leaders of the two sides agreed to carry out the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria in line with their mutual interests, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Turkey wants to set up a safe zone with logistical support from allies and says it should be cleared of the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara views as a terrorist organization linked with Kurdish militants on its own soil.
Erdogan and Trump also discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in Syria, Anadolu said, adding that the two agreed to support a political resolution to the Syria conflict.
Erdogan reaffirmed Turkey's desire to maintain close ties with the U.S. in the phone call and the two leaders agreed to improve bilateral economic ties, Anadolu said.
A White House statement said that the two leaders agreed, regarding Syria, to "continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone."
They noted that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford would be hosting their Turkish counterparts in Washington this week for further talks, the White House said.
Erdogan previously said that uncertainty remained over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, adding there was the talk of the pullout taking place in April or May.