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  • Esper made clear that, according to current plans, the troops aren’t going back to their country and the U.S. is not departing from the region.

    Esper made clear that, according to current plans, the troops aren’t going back to their country and the U.S. is not departing from the region. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 October 2019

Esper said that it is a very possible option, although the number of troops that will remain with the Kurdish forces has not yet been analyzed.

The United States may leave some forces in Syria to secure oilfields to allegedly "prevent" they don’t fall into the hands of the Islamic State group (IS), Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday, even though President Donald Trump has insisted he is pulling troops out of the country and getting out of “endless wars.” 

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Esper said that it is a very possible option, although the number of troops that will remain with the Kurdish forces has not yet been analyzed.

"We currently have troops in a couple of cities that are located near the northern oil important areas," the Pentagon's chief said adding that "the purpose is to deny access, specifically income to ISIS (Islamic State)."

More than 100 vehicles have crossed the border into Iraq from Syria, where Turkey agreed to stop its offensive for five days, honoring an agreement with Washington. The truce expires late on Tuesday, just after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agrees on the next steps in the region in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq under withdrawal orders issued by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF, which for years was a U.S. ally in the fight against IS.

Trump's decision has been criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a "betrayal" of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops in a region rich in oil reserves and farmland.

The New York Times reported late Sunday that Trump was leaning toward a new military plan to keep about 200 U.S. soldiers in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before he arrived ​​​​​in Afghanistan on Sunday, Esper made clear that, according to current plans, the troops aren’t going back to their country and the U.S. is not departing from the region, suggesting that counterterrorism missions could be conducted from Iraq into Syria.

The Pentagon chief’s statements came as Trump claimed he was bringing U.S. soldiers home from “endless wars” in the Middle East.

When asked about the fact that his comments were contradicting those of the president and the troops were not coming home, Esper said “well, they will eventually,” adding that the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.

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