A routine US-hosted conference of nations fighting the Islamic State militant group has become a damage control effort following US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The previously scheduled conference, tentatively set for Feb. 7 in Washington, aims to gather ministers from many of the 79 nations in the Global Coalition To Defeat Islamic State and galvanize their fight against the militant group.
However, Trump's shock Dec. 19 decision to withdraw and the mixed signals Washington has sent about when it may pull out the roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria have left US allies and partners rethinking their own commitments.
In the latest ambiguous signal, a senior State Department official on Friday first told reporters the United States has no timeline for the withdrawal of troops from Syria and then said it does not plan to stay indefinitely.
Another senior State Department official, also briefing reporters before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to the Middle East next week, said one of his main messages would be that "the United States is not leaving the Middle East."