America's mission in Syria remains the same as it was when it first began operations in 2014, that is to enable the enduring defeat of ISIS, United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said. His remarks came days after US President Donald Trump lifted all sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to a permanent ceasefire in Syria as the American troops left the "blood stained sand", allowing the Russian and Turkish forces to take over the territory controlled by America and the Kurdish military.
Addressing a joint news conference with General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Esper said, "We have learned from our recent history in the Middle East that it is very easy to get drawn into continued conflict if our objectives are not clear. Acting as a police force out to solve every dispute is not our mission."
"Our mission in Syria today remains the same as it was when we first began operations in 2014, to enable the enduring defeat of ISIS," he said.
The recent repositioning of the forces within the country is intended to posture the US to continue this mission and give the president options while returning the balance back home to the United States, the defense secretary said. Last week, Trump said the American forces have been in Syria far more than they were supposed to. He also said that the US has secured oil in the region.
Esper said, "Those who remain will continue to execute counter-terrorism operations while staying in close contact with the Syrians Democratic forces who have fought alongside us. Additionally, the United States will retain control of oil fields in northeast Syria."
At the height of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's reign these oilfields provided the terrorist organisation with the bulk of its financial resources. US troops will remain positioned in the strategic area to deny ISIS access to those vital resources, he said, adding the US will respond with overwhelming military force against those group that threatens the safety of its forces there.
"These oilfields also provide a critical source of funding to the Syrian Democratic Forces which enables them to secure ISIS prison camps and conduct operations against ISIS among other things," Esper said.
Trump announced on Sunday that Baghdadi blew himself in his suicide vest as he was chased to the dead end of a tunnel by the US service dogs during an American raid in northwest Syria.
The US Secretary of Defense, who was in Brussels recently for the NATO defense ministerial meetings, said that he reiterated the US' commitment to defeating the ISIS and called on other nations to have much at stake to offer their support to help mitigate the ongoing security crisis.
"Turkey continues to bear responsibility for the consequences of their unwarranted incursion which has brought further instability to the region," Esper said, adding a number of allies have expressed their desire to help with the implementation of a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border.
"The United States will remain focused on its core mission and continue to work closely with the defeat-ISIS coalition as we implement the next phase of the campaign. Baghdadi's death will not rid the world of terrorism nor end ongoing conflict in Syria. But but it will certainly send a message to those who would question America's results and provide a warning to terrorists who think they can hide," he said.
The US, more than any other nation in the world, possesses the power and will to hunt to the ends of the earth those who wish to bring harm upon the American people, Esper said, adding Saturday's operation that killed Baghdadi was just one example of the "incredible determination and great skill" of the US military.