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US to pull forces from Syria, continue fight against ISIL: Pompeo

Pompeo arrived in Egypt after visiting Jordan and Iraq [Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Reuters]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would withdraw its troops from Syria while continuing to finish the battle against ISIL.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on Thursday, Pompeo said that Washington remained a steadfast partner in the Middle East. 

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that,” the top diplomat said.

Pompeo is in Egypt as part of a Middle East tour aimed at reassuring Arab partners after President Donald Trump announced his plans to withdraw US forces from Syria.

He met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Ittihadeya Palace on Thursday to discuss security and economic cooperation. 

He is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the American University in Cairo on Washington’s broader Middle East objectives.

Pompeo arrived in Egypt after stops in Jordan and Iraq where he sought to assure leaders that withdrawing from Syria does not mean the US is abandoning the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group or easing pressure on Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo starts Middle East visit in Jordan

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He has chosen Cairo as the symbolic venue for the speech seemingly intended to repudiate the message in former US President Barack Obama‘s landmark address to the Muslim world from the Egyptian capital when he first took office. 

Obama pledged engagement with Iran and an understanding of the need for freedom and democracy that led to the Arab Spring revolutions.

Pompeo intends to assert the Trump message that Iran is to be countered at all costs while assuring that the US remains deeply committed to the region despite the America First rhetoric emanating from the White House.

From Egypt, Pompeo will travel to the Gulf Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait – to press the case.

In Saudi Arabia, he faces the thorny problem of dealing with global outrage against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (also known as MBS), accused of conspiring to murder Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Inside Story: Who killed Jamal Khashoggi? (24:46)