Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said last week that all US troops leaving Syria would be redeployed to Western Iraq
He claimed the troops there would continue to engage in anti-ISIS operations.
However, Iraq’s military said on Tuesday that US troops leaving Syria do not have permission to stay in the country.
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Esper said he planned on talking to Iraqi leaders to work out details about sending American troops to Iraq, adding that the US has no plans to have those troops stay in Iraq “interminably.”
Meanwhile at the request of Israel and Jordan, another few hundred troops will be staying in Syria for an unspecified time to guard oil wells and to bolster the U.S. garrison at Al Tanf on the Jordanian border. Esper indicated the need was to keep a mostly non-existent ISIS force from trying to reclaim the oil.
Activist Post reports: Though Esper suggested that the US wasn’t ruling out crossing into Syria for some operations, right now there aren’t many ISIS fighters there either.
This will be a move of more than 700 troops into Iraq, which is likely to raise eyebrows in Iraq, as all indications are that the US is at, or over, the troop cap negotiated with the Iraqi government, and this surprise deployment comes amid calls from Iraqi lawmakers to expel the US troops already there.
It’s clear why the US would like to just move the troops to western Iraq, as it’s close it would make for a convenient area to stage back into Syria at any time, and also puts more US ground troops adjacent to neighboring Iran, always a top US military priority. Yet the risk of turning Iraq into a staging ground for US troops into neighboring countries has always been a big problem for Iraqi officials, and that controversy will continue.
The obvious problems with this redeployment shows that the administration probably didn’t do a lot of pre-planning on what would happen with the troops, and that officials fairly quickly decided that keeping the troops in the region, instead of actually withdrawing them, was the priority.