ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Protection secretary Mark Esper says that beneath present plans all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the navy will proceed to conduct operations in opposition to the Islamic State group to stop its resurgence.
Talking to reporters touring with him to the Center East, Esper didn’t rule out the concept that US forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. However he stated these particulars shall be labored out over time.
His feedback had been the primary to particularly lay out the place American troops will go as they depart Syria and what the counter-IS combat might appear like. Esper stated he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart concerning the plan to shift the greater than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.
The developments made clear that one in every of President Donald Trump’s rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to return to move any time quickly. “It is time to carry our troopers again residence,” he stated Wednesday. However they aren’t coming residence.
As Esper left Washington on Saturday, US troops had been persevering with to tug out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border area. Studies of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the US-allied Syria Kurdish forces regardless of a five-day cease-fire settlement hammered out on Friday between U.S. and Turkish leaders.
Trump ordered the majority of the roughly 1,000 US troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a telephone name that his forces had been about to invade Syria to push again Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.
The pullout largely abandons the Kurdish allies who’ve fought the Islamic State group alongside US troops for a number of years. Between 200 and 300 US troops will stay on the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.
Esper stated the troops going into Iraq could have two missions.
“One is to assist defend Iraq and two is to carry out a counter-ISIS mission as we kind by way of the subsequent steps,” he stated.
“Issues might change between now and every time we full the withdrawal, however that is the sport plan proper now.”
The US at present has greater than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, beneath an settlement between the 2 international locations. The US pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when fight operations there ended, however they went again in after the Islamic State group started to take over massive swaths of the nation in 2014. The variety of American forces in Iraq has remained small because of political sensitivities within the nation, after years of what some Iraqis think about US occupation through the battle that started in 2003.
Esper stated he’ll discuss with different allies at a NATO assembly within the coming week to debate the best way forward for the counter-IS mission.
Requested if US particular operations forces will conduct unilateral navy operations into Syria to go after IS, Esper stated that’s an choice that shall be mentioned with allies over time.
He stated one in every of his high issues is what the subsequent part of the counter-IS missions appears like, “however we have now to work by way of these particulars. He stated that if US forces do go in, they might be protected by American plane.
Whereas he acknowledged reviews of intermittent preventing regardless of the cease-fire settlement, he stated that total it “typically appears to be holding. We see a stability of the traces, if you’ll, on the bottom.”
He additionally stated that, to date, the Syrian Democratic Forces that partnered with the US to combat IS have maintained management of the prisons in Syria the place they’re nonetheless current. The Turks, he stated, have indicated they’ve management of the IS prisons of their areas.
“I am unable to assess whether or not that is true or not with out having folks on the bottom,” stated Esper.
He added that the US withdrawal shall be deliberate and protected, and can take “weeks not days.”
In accordance with a US official on Saturday, about a few hundred troops have left Syria to date. The US forces have been largely consolidated in a single location within the west and some places within the east.
The official, who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate ongoing operations, stated the US navy just isn’t intently monitoring the effectiveness of the cease-fire, however is conscious of sporadic preventing and violations of the settlement. The official stated it’s going to nonetheless take a few weeks to get forces out of Syria.


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