US withdrawal from Syria means likely an end to airstrikes, official says
Posted December 20, 2018 10:25 a.m. EST
(CNN) — The US withdrawal of ground forces from Syria most likely means an end to airstrikes, a US defense official told CNN.
US airstrikes in Syria would likely have to stop due to a lack of US spotters on the ground to collect intelligence and call in airstrikes, the official said.
The official also added that it's possible that drones could still conduct intelligence and reconnaissance missions, just as they do in Yemen and Somalia. Those missions could include strikes, the official said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told CNN that "as long as there are US troops on the ground we will conduct air and artillery strikes in support of our forces. We will not speculate on future operations."
In a move that drew criticism, President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US military from Syria, declaring that the US has defeated ISIS.
The US will continue to maintain troops in Iraq, with the capability of launching long range artillery strikes into Syria.
In the days before Trump's announcement, the US-led coalition in Syria conduced 208 strikes in Syria against ISIS between December 9 and December 15.
The US began airstrikes against the terror group inside the country in 2014 under former President Barack Obama.