French President Emmanuel Macron attempted Monday to walk back surprising comments that suggested he had convinced President Trump to keep U.S. forces in Syria “long term.”
The original remarks — during a TV debate Sunday after Western missile strikes on Syria — hinted at a major policy shift by Trump and brought a sharp response from the White House less than a week before Macron is scheduled to visit Washington.
It left Macron scrambling to clarify his statement and fall closer in line with Trump’s outlook that the Islamic State remains the main battle for Western military forces in Syria. Last month, Trump announced that he planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “very soon,” but appeared to take a softer line after commanders and others questioned that decision.
At a news conference Monday, Macron took pains to emphasize a common strategy in Syria between France and the Trump administration.
“I did not say that either the U.S. or France will remain militarily engaged in the long term in Syria,” he told reporters after meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.