US to ‘end air campaign’ against IS in Syria after troop withdrawal
The United States could end its air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria when it pulls out troops, US officials said on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump faced intense opposition to his abrupt announcement on Wednesday that the Islamic State had been defeated in the region, and that he was ordering the 2,000 US troops in Syria to exit the country.
Trump's decision runs counter to long-established US policy for Syria and the region. It blindsided lawmakers, the Pentagon and international allies alike.
US officials told Reuters that the troop withdrawal is expected to mean an end to the US air campaign against IS, which had been vital to crushing the group in Syria and Iraq.
The US has dropped more than 100,000 bombs and missiles on the two countries since 2015.
Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said the US would continue its air war while American soldiers were in Syria - but she would not say if the campaign would continue afterward.
"As long are there are troops on the ground, the US will conduct air strikes in support of our forces," Rebarich told AFP.
"As for anything post-US troops on the ground, we will not speculate on future operations." A US defence official told AFP that "there's not a lot of clarity on the future situation."
France and Britain have already indicated they will continue counter-IS operations.
The air war has been the keystone of US operations in Syria, with warplanes and drones hammering IS targets since 2014.
According to the most recent official strike summary, published on Wednesday, the US-led coalition conducted 208 air and artillery strikes in Syria last week.
Agencies contributed to this report.