In the same 24 hour period, President Donald Trump told a crowd in Ohio that the U.S. would be looking to exit Syria in the near future. Hours later, the Pentagon confirmed that at least two members of the coalition fighting the Islamic State were killed in a roadside bomb attack, including one American.
"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon, we're coming out," said Trump, while speaking in Richfield, Ohio.
Trump's remarks contrasted with those in his cabinet who have previously noted that U.S. interests in Syria may continue, as ISIS continues to fracture in Iraq and Syria.
"What we will be doing is shifting from what I would call an offensive, shifting from an offensive terrain-seizing approach, to a stabilizing ... you'll see more U.S. diplomats on the ground," Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters in December.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired by Trump earlier this month, noted that a permanent solution to the terrorism problem in the region will require more than just ISIS's destruction.
"If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory," said Tillerson in February. He added that rebuilding schools, hospitals, and clearing out left-over explosives would be crucial to that success. Of course, these kinds of projects take time, as well as resources.
The U.S. has approximately 2,000 military personnel in Syria, many of them Army Special Forces who are coordinating with local militia groups to fight ISIS. The strategy from the start of Operation Inherent Resolve has been to keep a light U.S. foot print, and support local forces to do the bulk of the front line fighting.
But even with ISIS fragmented, the political situation in Syria remains in crisis. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by his Iranian and Russian allies, continues to fight various rebel groups across the country, and thousands of civilians are caught in the crossfire. The death toll in the now seven year long war hit 465,000 last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Further complicating matters is the conflict between Turkey, technically a U.S. ally, and Kurdish forces in northern Syria, some of whom are supported by the U.S. government.
Even if Trump wants to make an early exit out of Syria, he has yet to give the order to his aides to formulate such a plan, which could delay an exit in the short term.