Trump tells advisers he wants US out of Syria 'very soon', senior officials say

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., March 30 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is telling advisers he wants an early exit of U.S. troops from Syria, two senior administration officials said on Friday, a stance that may put him at odds with many top U.S. officials.

Trump is spending Easter weekend at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. During a speech in Richfield, Ohio on Thursday, he revealed his desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and turn over security to regional countries.

He said that based on allied victories against Islamic State militants, "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," Trump said. "We're going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be."

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The administration officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Trump's comment during the speech reflected internal deliberations with advisers in which he has wondered aloud why U.S. forces should remain with the militants on their heels.

Trump has made clear that "once ISIS and its remnants are destroyed that the United States would be looking toward having countries in the region playing a larger role in ensuring security and leaving it at that," one official said.

Such a policy is nowhere near complete, however, the official added.

A look inside Syria:

16 PHOTOS
Fighting in Syria's Ghouta region
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Fighting in Syria's Ghouta region
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed dozens of civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / Hamza Al-Ajweh (Photo credit should read HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Syrian Mohammed cries as he receives treatment at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna after being wounded with his mother in government air strikes on the town of Jisreen, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed dozens of civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / Ammar SULEIMAN (Photo credit should read AMMAR SULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian civil defence member carries an injured child rescued from between the rubble of buildings following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on February 17, 2018 shows a man walking next to another pushing a bicycle loaded with a carpet, down a rain-soaked street past damaged and destroyed buildings in the Syrian rebel-held enclave of Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian man stands amid the rubble of buildings following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Syrian children cry at a make-shift hospital in Douma following air strikes on the Syrian village of Mesraba in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed dozens of civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / Hamza Al-Ajweh (Photo credit should read HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian civilian inspects the damage following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian civilians look at the rubble following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian man carries a child injured in government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 17: Children are seen at the debris of buildings after Assad Regime's airstrikes and ground attacks to Harasta town, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on February 17, 2018. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian man carries an infant injured in government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from buildings in a rebel-held area of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta following government shelling on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian man carries an infant injured in government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
Children are inspect damages on a street in the besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria February 11, 2018.REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 17: Debris of buildings are seen after Assad Regime's airstrikes and ground attacks to Harasta town, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on February 17, 2018. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The second official said Trump's national security advisers have told him U.S. forces should stay in small numbers for at least a couple of years to make sure gains against the militants are held and ensure Syria does not essentially become a permanent Iranian base.

Top national security aides discussed Syria in a White House meeting recently but have yet to settle on a strategy for U.S. forces in Syria to recommend to Trump going forward, the official said.

"So far he has not given an order to just get out," the official said.

About 2,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Syria.

An American service member was among two people killed on Thursday by improvised explosive device in Syria, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

Four officials at the State and Defense Departments and the CIA said on Friday they were surprised by Trump’s Syria remarks, which one senior intelligence official said “appeared to be completely off the cuff.”

They added, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that Trump’s comments also appear to be part of a pattern that includes questioning the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Charter and suggesting the Pentagon will pay for a border wall with Mexico, positions that many or most national security officials opposed.

Trump last year went through a similar wrenching debate over whether to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, ultimately agreeing to keep them there but only after repeatedly raising questions of why they should stay.

Trump's view on Syria may put him at odds with those of former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, named by Trump a week ago to replace H.R. McMaster as White House national security adviser.

More on Trump administration shake-ups

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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration
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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

(Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

(June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files)

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

(Photo Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

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"The caliphate in Syria & Iraq is gone, but #ISIS’s terrorist activities will continue and #Iran is becoming a bigger player in the region," Bolton tweeted last Oct. 20 when he was a national security analyst. (Reporting By Steve Holland and John Walcott; Editing by David Gregorio)

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