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article imageUS to deploy 700 troops from Syria into western Iraq

By Ken Hanly     Oct 21, 2019 in Politics
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says that the current US plan is to send all US troops leaving Syria to be redeployed into the western part of Iraq to engage in anti-ISIS operations.
Esper said of the troops' mission in Iraq: “One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”
There aren't any ISIS fighters in western Iraq right now
Esper suggested though that the US was not ruling out operations into Syria but there are few left there either although some seem to have escaped jails with the Turkish incursion into the border area. The rationale for the deployment sees to be an excuse for a quick move back into Syria if needed. This is unlikely to sit well with the Iraqi government as factions such as that of Moqtada al-Sadr want the US troops out. There are also protests against the present government. The US are increasing their presence right in the middle of a highly volatile situation with an unstable government.
The US deployment
The US will move more than 700 troops into western Iraq. This may put the number of US troops in Iraq over the troop cap negotiated with the Iraqi government. This will likely even heighten the demands for at least some or even all of the US troops be withdrawn. It is not clear that the US even consulted the Iraqi government on this move.
Iraq does not want to become a staging ground for US attacks on other countries
While the location of the troops might be ideal for a launch back into Syria at any time, the last thing that Iraq wants is for it to become a staging ground for US troops to operate in another country. The deployment also puts more US troops adjacent to Iran another feature that both Iran and the Iraq government will be annoyed by.
Given all the problems with the US move it appears that officials decided upon it very quickly without proper consideration of its consequences. Officials must have quickly decided that they wanted to keep troops in the area rather than withdrawing them as President Trump appears to have desired.
President Trump had a rambling tweet about the situation: "The US president tried to quote Mark Esper in a tweet, but instead he referred to him as “Mark Esperanto”. He wrote: “Mark Esperanto, Secretary of Defense, “The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly."In a rambling conclusion the president added “USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!” Of course Trump is wrong the soldiers from Syria have been redeployed to Iraq.
Reportedly between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.
More about US troops in Iraq, US Iraq relations, Mark Esper
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