US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who left for the Middle East and Europe on October 19, stated that the US troops leaving Syria will be deployed in Iraq. Esper said the troops will continue operations against Islamic State, without denying the possibility of counter-terrorism missions into Syria from Iraq.
“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” said Esper. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now,” he added.
Earlier, US President Donald Trump had said the troops will be back home after the withdrawal. “It’s time to bring our soldiers back home,” he had said. But Esper’s comments suggest otherwise and the soldiers won’t be coming back home. The Defence Secretary said the troops will ensure the prevention of any resurgence of the Islamic State. The Defense Secretary will meet Turkish and other European counterparts in Brussels and clarify his objective, which is to reinforce the importance of ‘ensuring a lasting political solution to the situation in Syria’.
Esper didn’t divulge any details about the future missions against the Islamic State and said they have to work those details. Meanwhile, even after a US-brokered ceasefire, Kurdish forces clashed with the Turkish-backed Syrian fighters. Esper stated that overall it “generally seems to be holding”. “We see a stability of the lines, if you will, on the ground,” he added.
Trump, in a tweet, had confirmed the ceasefire between the Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters, to which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan replied that the ultimate goal is to defeat terrorism.
Mr. President, many more lives will be saved when we defeat terrorism, which is humanity's arch enemy. I am confident that this joint effort will promote peace and stability in our region.— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 17, 2019