On October 20th, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US troops withdrawing from northern Syria weren’t going back to the US, but rather to western Iraq.
“The U.S. withdrawal continues apace from northeastern Syria… we’re talking weeks not days,” Esper told reporters en route to the Middle East, adding that it was being carried out through aircraft and ground convoys.
“The current game plan is for those forces to re-position into western Iraq,” Esper said.
The US claims that the troops are approximately 1,000 and would “help defend Iraq” and work against ISIS, which has been announced as defeated there since December 2017.
A video published by Al Jazeera showed how satisfied people are:
And on October 22nd, the Iraqi military released a statement that the US troops aren’t welcome in the country and that they weren’t authorized to be there.
“All US forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to enter the Kurdish region so that they may be transported outside Iraq. There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq,” the statement said.
On the same day, Mark Esper said that the troops weren’t going to stay in Iraq, in complete contradiction to what he said 2 days earlier, but the US probably expected Iraq to simply allow them in.
“The aim isn’t to stay in Iraq interminably, the aim is to pull our soldiers out and eventually get them back home,” Esper said at the Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
He simply said it wasn’t clear how long the US troops would stay in Iraq and he would speak with the Iraqi defense minister on October 23rd.
Esper then said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to accept the deployment to the Kingdom. He didn’t provide much details.
US President Donald Trump praised Saudi Arabia saying that they would pay to receive the 1,000 US troops coming from Syria, but Esper said that the US military isn’t a mercenary force.
“We are not a mercenary force,” Esper said.
“Mercenary forces do things for the pay, we are doing this (to).. help defend our allies, second to deter Iran so we don’t have increasingly bad behavior, and third defend the international rules based order,” he added.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Video Comparison: How Locals React To US And Russia Troops In Northeastern Syria
- US Troops Will Remain In Syria To ‘Protect’ Oil Fields From ISIS