WASHINGTON - The United States and its allies would not want to pull troops out of Syria before diplomats win the peace, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, one of the strongest signs yet a full US withdrawal was unlikely anytime soon.
US President Donald Trump said last week he wants to withdraw American troops from Syria relatively soon, but appeared to temper that position by voicing a desire to leave a "strong and lasting footprint."
A footprint, in military-speak, usually refers to a US troop presence.
Mattis said the United States and its allies were on the cusp of victory against Islamic State and added they would not want to simply abandon Syria while it remained in a state of war.
"We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace. You win the fight -- and then you win the peace," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.
Mattis said he was due to meet later on Monday with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura to "see where the Geneva process is and what we can do to assist."