US Sending Troops Based in Syria to Iraq, Defense Chief Says

By VOA News |

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 11, 2019.

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT – U.S. troops withdrew from their largest base in northern Syria Sunday, with defense chief Mark Esper saying all American forces leaving Syria would be deployed to western Iraq to carry out anti-terrorist operations against Islamic State.

Esper said more than 700 U.S. troops would be moved to Iraq and not come “home” as U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted they would.

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Esper did not rule out possible U.S. counterterrorism raids from Iraq into Syria. But he said plans would be developed over time and include discussions with NATO allies in the coming days. He said if U.S. forces return to Syria they would be protected by American aircraft.

The U.S. currently has about 5,000 troops in Iraq under an agreement between Baghdad and Washington. The U.S. had pulled out in 2011 when combat operations ended there, but went back in three years later when Islamic State took over large parts of the country before later losing what it had gained.

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