News

National Security & Defense

Trump Considering Leaving Small Contingent of Troops in Syria, Defense Secretary Confirms

President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters in Kabul on Sunday that “there has been a discussion” within the Trump administration about leaving several hundred U.S. troops in northeast Syria despite the president’s withdrawal order.

Esper also said that, despite reports of intermittent fighting between Kurdish and Turkish forces in spite of the five-day ceasefire, the agreement “generally seems to be holding.” “We see a stability of the lines, if you will, on the ground,” he added.

Esper’s comments confirmed a Sunday New York Times report that Trump was considering a Pentagon plan to leave roughly 200 special-forces troops in the area to check a potential ISIS resurgence and to protect oil fields from Russian and Syrian advancement.

Should President Trump decide to leave troops in Syria, it will be the second time he has announced a total withdrawal from Syria only to recant within days. Trump hinted at the strategy in a Sunday tweet: “We have secured the Oil.” He also mentioned oil security during an impromptu press conference on Friday.

Secretary Esper on Sunday explained the rationale behind relocating 700 troops from Syria to western Iraq. “[One objective] 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.”

Esper refused to confirm whether U.S. special forces would conduct counterterrorism operations from Iraq into Syria but said that countering ISIS was one of his top concerns. He also said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting in the coming week to discuss future strategy.

Most Popular

Culture

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Theater of Trolls

As a boy, I used to watch a television show with a weekly gag titled “MasterJoke Theatre.” A pompous egghead smoked a pipe in a leather-bound chair in a richly appointed library, told a joke, and got a pie in the face for his trouble. What the Democrats launched on the Hill this week is their own variant, ... Read More
U.S.

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More