President Donald Trump has sought to defend his abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria by insisting he was just fulfilling a promise to bring U.S. soldiers home. As it turns out, not a single one of those withdrawn soldiers may actually come home. This weekend, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the about 1,000 troops being withdrawn from Syria were slated to be transferred to Iraq, where they would continue their mission against the ISIS terror group, which has operated there too.
As Esper explained it:
‘The U.S. withdrawal continues apace from northeastern Syria… we’re talking weeks not days… The current game plan is for those forces to re-position into western Iraq.’
An anonymous senior U.S. official insisted to Reuters that “plans could change,” sharing:
‘That is the current game plan, things can change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal but that is the game plan right now.’
The withdrawal has left Kurdish forces vulnerable to attacks from Turkish forces, who have promptly moved into the area. At present, a ceasefire agreement is in place under which Kurdish fighters are to move back from the Turkish border right away. There have been reports of continued fighting even after the ceasefire, but Esper dismissed the significance of this — even as more civilians might end up wounded or killed.
‘I think overall the ceasefire generally seems to be holding, we see a stabilization of the lines, if you will, on the ground, and we do get reports of intermittent fires, this and that, that doesn’t surprise me necessarily.’
What about the Kurdish allies to the U.S. in Syria who have been “surprised” by this whole situation? A supposed lack of surprise from a comfortable Trump administration official does not make up for the reality on the ground in Syria, where some estimate more than 100,000 people have already been displaced and many have been killed.
The reality of the situation also starkly contrasts with what Trump and his closest allies have claimed about what’s going on. Numerous times now, they’ve insisted that ISIS is defeated. Responding to concerns that abandoning thousands of ISIS captives held presently by Syrian Kurds could help the group bounce back, Trump has insisted escaped ISIS-affiliated individuals will just go to Europe, and that’s supposed to be reassuring. In reality — the group still poses enough of a threat that the Syria troops Trump has touted bringing “home” are actually going to be staying in the Middle East to keep fighting ISIS.
This Sunday morning, Trump touted a quote from Esper, but not the one about the troops actually staying overseas.
Writing on Twitter, Trump shared:
‘Mark Esperanto, Secretary of Defense, “The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with the Kurds.” USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!’
Again, to be clear — the troops are not coming home. They are staying overseas to keep fighting the fight Trump wants to abandon. At least, that’s the plan for now.