Donald Trump recently insinuated that troops stationed in Syria would be returning home, but it appears that more than 700 troops leaving the country are actually destined for another Middle East warzone: Iraq.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that US forces withdrawing from northern Syria will be relocated to western Iraq, where they will participate in ongoing operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Esper told reporters that he would not rule out the possibility that the American troops could conduct cross-border missions into Syria from their new home in Iraq.
Explaining his decision to pull US troops out of Syria, Trump argued earlier this month that it was “time to bring our soldiers back home” – but it now appears that this won’t be happening any time soon. The US troop withdrawal coincided with Turkey’s military incursion into the region, purportedly to create a “safe zone” inside Syrian territory. The military operation has been widely condemned by the international community.
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The pullout caused a full-blown media meltdown, with the New York Times even wringing its hands over the fact that Syrian forces were filling the “US void” in northern Syria. The United States was never given permission to conduct military operations on Syrian soil, and Damascus has repeatedly accused Washington of carrying out an illegal occupation of its sovereign territory.
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