It appears U.S. troops leaving Syria won't be coming home — at least not yet — as President Trump had indicated last week, and reiterated today.
Instead, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that all U.S. troops leaving northern Syria will be re-stationed in western Iraq where they will reportedly defend the country and continue to conduct preventative operations against the Islamic State, as the cease-fire brokered with Turkey in northern Syria mostly seems to be holding. Esper also did not rule out counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria.
The plan calls for about 1,000 troops to head to Iraq, adding to the more than 5,000 troops currently in the country. "Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that's the game plan right now," Esper said. The secretary added that he will talk with U.S. allies at a NATO meeting next week to discuss how to handle military operations to block any resurgence from ISIS.
But Trump still maintained that troops were coming home in a Sunday morning tweet, in which he also called Esper the wrong name.
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!
Update: Trump has since removed the original tweet and posted another in which he referred to Esper by his correct name, and said the U.S. is "ending endless wars" rather than "bringing soldiers home." Tim O'Donnell
Matching calls from both sides of the aisle, Trump announced Monday that he would soon authorize sanctions "against current and former officials" in Turkey and "any persons contributing to Turkey's destabilizing actions in northeast Syria," as well as other tariffs against the country. The move comes after the U.S. withdrew troops from the Kurdish-held area and Turkey quickly invaded.
Trump's promised executive order includes an increase on steel tariffs back to 50 percent, "the level prior to reduction in May," a Monday statement from Trump read. The U.S. Commerce Department will "also immediately stop negotiations" with Turkey regarding a $100 billion trade deal. All of this will let the U.S. punish "those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire," and other "threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria," per the statement.
Talk of Turkey sanctions began last week when Trump unexpectedly announced he'd remove U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held area of Syria and essentially okay Turkey's imminent invasion of the area. Shortly after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed they'd introduce sanctions on Turkey if the country attacked the Kurds, which it promptly did. Kathryn Krawczyk