Defense Secretary says troops are staying in Syria just minutes after Trump says they're "coming home"
Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed on Friday that U.S. troops would be staying in Syria to protect oil fields, Politico reported.
Esper's remarks came just minutes after Trump tweeted that U.S. troops in the region would be "coming home."
In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump stated, "Oil is secured. Our soldiers have left and are leaving Syria for other places, then ... COMING HOME!"
Using all-caps for emphasis, Trump added, "When these pundit fools who have called the Middle East wrong for 20 years ask what we are getting out of the deal, I simply say, THE OIL, AND WE ARE BRINGING OUR SOLDIERS BACK HOME, ISIS SECURED!"
Shortly after Trump's proclamation, Esper spoke at a press conference from NATO headquarters in Brussels and denied that claim.
"We are reinforcing that position. It will include some mechanized forces," Esper said when asked about using tanks or other armored vehicles to protect oil fields in northern Syria.
Esper, whom Trump once mistakenly referred to as "Mark Esperanto," added that "the mission in Syria remains what the mission in Syria began with," saying the goal was to defeat ISIS.
According to Reuters, mechanized forces can include military assets such as tanks.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that as many as 500 troops could remain in the region. Before the Friday press conference, the Journal reported Esper was considering deploying both tanks and troops to the Syrian oil fields in order to keep ISIS from gaining control of them.
Esper's comment about the need to defeat ISIS contradicts Trump's repeated claims that ISIS is either "100% defeated" or secured.
Hundreds of ISIS-aligned prisoners escaped from Syrian prisoners after Trump abruptly announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria in early October. The U.S. retreat followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which Trump acknowledged a planned "operation" there. After the calle, the White House announced the troop withdrawal, effectively greenlighting the Turkish military invasion.
That operation has targeted the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who were allied with the United States in the fight against ISIS. Many of those allies, as well as Kurdish civilians, have been slaughtered by Turkish forces since the invasion began on Oct. 9.
Trump's policy in Syria garnered bipartisan rebuke from the House of Representatives, as well as criticism from Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Utah's Mitt Romney, who was once floated as a possible secretary of state in the Trump administration.
Trump administration officials have a long history of contradicting Trump's off the cuff statements on foreign policy and intelligence matters.
In January, U.S. intelligence leaders countered the majority of Trump's claims about North Korean missile development, the threat of ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal, and Russian election meddling during congressional testimony. Trump responded by telling those leaders to "go back to school."
In May, Trump also claimed North Korea had not broken a U.N. agreement after a missile test, only to be corrected by Pentagon officials.
And in June, Trump claimed the moon was a part of Mars, forcing the NASA administrator to respond publicly.
Sometimes it is merely Trump administration data contradicting Trump statements, such as back in August, when Trump claimed there was no inflation about 20 minutes after the Labor Department released data showing clear inflation.
Published with permission of The American Independent. Attribution: Dan Desai Martin.