Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained Thursday that "there's no contradiction whatsoever" in the changing US strategy on Syria, despite mixed messages from the administration since President Donald Trump's announcement that the US would be pulling troops from the country.
"This is a story made up by the media. That's fine, you all write what you like, but the President's been very clear, and (national security adviser John) Bolton and I have been very clear about this too, that the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is real," Pompeo said in Cairo, according to CNN.com. "ISIS continues – we fight them in many regions around the country. Our commitment to prevent Daesh's growth, ISIS' growth, is real. It's important. We will continue at that."
While analysts have flagged the impact the withdrawal decision has had on US allies, particularly the Kurds, and the potential benefits to Iran and Russia of an American pullback, none have suggested the threat from ISIS has dissipated and instead have stressed it continues to exist.
"We're going to do it in a way in one particular place, Syria, differently," Pompeo also said. "The United States' decision, President Trump's decision, to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that."
Trump caused announced last month that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and that US troops would be "coming back now" from the country. Since then, Trump and his top advisers have qualified that declaration, and Bolton said Sunday that US forces wouldn't leave until ISIS has been vanquished and Kurdish fighters working with US troops are protected from Turkish attacks.
Bolton's remarks earned a swift rebuke from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said the national security adviser had made a "serious mistake" and that Turkey would not compromise.