U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria won’t be coming home just yet. Instead, they’ll relocate to western Iraq where they will continue to fight ISIS both in Iraq, and potentially still in Syria, according to The Associated Press.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the plans for the troops being controversially and abruptly withdrawn from Syria, where they were supporting Kurdish forces who are now facing an aggressive military push by Turkey.
“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” Esper said of the plans for troops stationed in Iraq. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”
President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of about 1,000 troops from Syria. Some are still in northeast Syria defending oil fields from a Islamic State takeover and have not yet begun to withdraw. Several hundred will remain in southern Syria at the Al-Tanf outpost.
So when will the withdrawn U.S. troops return home? According to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, “eventually.”
“The quickest way to get them out of danger was to get them into Iraq,” Mulvaney told Fox News on Sunday.
As a result, a move that was presented as an opportunity to bring U.S. soldiers out of the volatile Middle East and back home has become more of a strategic repositioning, especially if the troops do indeed continue conducting missions in Syria from Iraq.
There also appears to be some mixed messaging coming out of the Trump administration about what has been going on since the troop withdrawal began. President Trump tweeted the following quote from Esper: “The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with Kurds. U.S. soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zone. We have secured the Oil.”
However, Idrees Ali, a Reuters reporter traveling with Esper in Afghanistan, claimed Esper did not say that.
I’m not sure who Trump is referring to, but I’m traveling with Defense Secretary Esper and cant recall the quote Trump is using,” Ali tweeted. “While speaking with us Enroute to Afghanistan, Esper also made no mention of new areas being resettled with Kurds or oil.”
(H/T: Hot Air)