Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would "be coming out of Syria like very soon," just hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future.
Trump says US will withdraw from Syria 'very soon'
"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now," Trump told supporters at an Ohio event on infrastructure.
"We are going to have 100% of the caliphate, as they call it, sometimes referred to as land ... But we are going to be coming out of there real soon. We are going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be," Trump added.
One US defense official directly familiar with the ISIS campaign said it is unclear what the President meant by the comments. The military's current assessment is that now is not the time to consider withdrawal, citing numerous challenges in Syria.
The official pointed to several challenges, including figuring out what to do with the some 400 foreign ISIS fighters currently being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as one example of the obstacles to a US withdrawal.
The official also noted that the US still needed to decide on a policy with regard to the future of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Russia's continued military presence in the county as additional complicating factors.
Senior administration officials have been discussing for some time the way ahead in Syria and what conditions would need to be met to permit a US withdrawal, the official said, but added that while Trump could decide at any time to pull out, military commanders were not recommending that course of action at this time.
A second defense official told CNN earlier that senior officials have had meetings to discuss the US role in Syria and the challenges facing US policy there.