Withdrawing US troops enter Iraq from Syria
US forces withdrawing from northeastern Syria have entered Iraq, but some troops may stay behind in order to help the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) protect oil fields from Islamic State militants. According to US defense chief Mark Esper, the government is considering to keep some troops stationed in the region for this purpose, but “there has been no decision with regard to numbers or anything like that.”
Earlier this month, Turkey invaded northeastern Syria after US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from the area. While Turkey claims that the campaign aims to fight terrorism in the region and to create a “safe zone,” the main target seems to be the SDF, a US ally that was instrumental in defeating Islamic State in Syria earlier this year. In response, Russia deployed troops to the region in order to prevent a military confrontation between Syria and Turkey. Last week, US Vice President Mike Pence managed to get Erdogan to agree to a cease-fire, although the latter called it a mere “pause.” The arrangement aims to give the SDF the opportunity to withdraw from the region.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that his regime “does not have an eye on any country’s territory” and that they “consider such an accusation as the biggest insult directed to us.” Experts have been warning that the US withdrawal is likely to play into the hands of major US adversaries including Assad, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.
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