Tillerson: U.S. will have an open-ended military presence in Syria

Rex Tillerson.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that 2,000 U.S. troops will remain in Syria, as there are "strategic threats" to the United States there beyond the Islamic State.

"Iran has dramatically strengthened its presence in Syria," Tillerson said at Stanford University. "Through its position in Syria, Iran is in a stronger position to extend its track record of attacking U.S. interests, allies, and personnel in the region." U.S. troops were sent to northeastern Syria to assist Kurdish fighters battling ISIS militants, and although ISIS now has just a small presence in the country, Tillerson said there's concern of a revival. "We cannot repeat the mistake of 2011, where a premature departure from Iraq allowed al Qaeda in Iraq to survive and eventually become ISIS," he said.

Tillerson also said the U.S. continues to push for a peace deal in the country that would exclude Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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