Two coalition personnel killed in Syria; Trump signals end of military presence

Two U.S.-led coalition personnel died in Syria and five others sustained injuries in a bomb attack as President Donald Trump signaled ending U.S. military presence in the war-torn country.

A U.S. Army soldier stands on an eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicle near al-Ghanamya village, al-Darbasiyah, at the Syrian-Turkish border. File Photo by Youssef Rabie/EPA-EFE
A U.S. Army soldier stands on an eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicle near al-Ghanamya village, al-Darbasiyah, at the Syrian-Turkish border. File Photo by Youssef Rabie/EPA-EFE

Military officials said the attack occurred Thursday night with an improvised explosive device. The identities and nationalities of the dead service members had not been released early Friday.

“Details pertaining to the incident are being withheld pending further investigation,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Trump said Thursday the United States could soon be out of Syrian.

“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Trump said during a speech in Ohio on plans to improve the nation’s infrastucture.

Trump said he wanted “other people” to take care of the Islamic State — which nearly 2,000 U.S. forces have been helping to fight in Syria.

“By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS,” Trump said in his speech, using an alternative acronym for the terror group. “We got to get back to our country where we belong, where we want to be.”

The remarks run contrary to statements made by Trump’s top officials, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Both have argued that a U.S. military presence must remain involved in the Syria war.

Mattis and Tillerson also have said U.S. military personnel would stay in Syria until the Islamic State was defeated and a new political process was underway.

“Trump has never believed it was worth investing significant American blood and treasure to try to sort out the problems of the Middle East,” Phil Gordon, who oversaw Syria policy as a senior national security aide in the Obama White House, told Politico.

That view could also put the president at odds with two new nominees for his administration: Mike Pompeo, who is to replace Tillerson as secretary of state, and John Bolton, who is coming aboard as national security adviser.

“And if that view is somewhat different from that of Tillerson and Mattis, it’s even more different from the views of Pompeo and Bolton, who both put a premium on U.S. leadership in the region, confrontation with Iran, and support overthrowing hostile, anti-American regimes like the one in Syria.”

By Sara Shayanian