The US Defence Secretary confirmed that all US troops leaving Syria will be redeployed in western Iraq where the commandment has planned to conduct operations against ISIS, The National reports. Mark Esper added that the US withdrawal will take “weeks not days.”
During the briefing with journalists, Defence Secretary Mark Esper hasn’t shared the details of the redeployment the US troops to western Iraq. However, Mr Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him to the Middle East, Mr Esper commented on where American troops will go as they leave Syria and what the counter-ISIS fight could look like.
The US Defence Secretary confirmed the developments made clear that one of President Donald Trump’s rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to come to pass any time soon.
“It’s time to bring our soldiers back home,” Esper said.
Defence Secretary on the latest developments in northern Syria
This week, the US troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border region. The start of the Turkish military campaign on October 9 caused a stir in the diplomatic circles. However, a five-day ceasefire agreement hammered out on Friday between US and Turkish leaders became a chance to rule out the situation.
President Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 US troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.
Between 200 and 300 US troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al Tanf. Mr Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.
“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”
According to Esper, the Syrian Democratic Forces that partnered with the US to fight ISIS have maintained control of the prisons in Syria where they are still present. The Turks, he said, have indicated they have control of the IS prisons in their areas.
“I can’t assess whether that’s true or not without having people on the ground,” said Mr Esper.