Pompeo Sees ‘Lots of Pockets’ of Islamic State Around the World

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo sought to play down concerns that President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement that he’s pulling U.S. troops from Syria may have been premature, arguing that the fight against Islamic State continues “in lots of pockets around the world.”

Speaking on the Laura Ingraham Show on Thursday morning, Pompeo said the main reason U.S. troops were in Syria was to “take down the caliphate,” a process that was “at the very tail end of completion.”

The top U.S. diplomat’s comments were a marked reversal from past remarks that senior Trump administration officials had made about a time line for pulling the 2,000 or so American troops from Syria. Previously, they had insisted the U.S. would remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of ISIS and withdraw only after Iranian militias had left.

But Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials were forced to shift gears after Trump reversed months of policy deliberation and ordered troops home from Syria. In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump said Islamic State had been defeated and there was no longer any reason to stay.

On Dec. 11, Pompeo’s envoy for the fight against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, said hardened Islamic State fighters remained in about 1 percent of the territory the group previously controlled but added that the time wasn’t right for U.S. troops to leave. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Pompeo’s deputy spokesman and numerous other officials had all repeated the same messages over many weeks.

Pompeo denied that Trump’s decision was a surprise to him, though he didn’t say whether he agreed with the president’s call.

“This was a decision that was made with lots of consultation between all the senior-level officials, including myself, with the president,” Pompeo told Ingraham. “So yes, did I – I had more than a heads-up.”

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