US Troops From Syria Can’t Stay in Iraq, Will Come Home

Iraq statement: US never got permission for troops to stay

A few days after sending US troops out of Syria into neighboring Iraq, and the Pentagon announcing those troops would remain in western Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has now confirmed that won’t actually be happening at all.

The plan was to shift them from eastern Syria to western Iraq, up until the point when the Iraqi government actually heard about it. The Iraqi government has issued a subsequent statement saying the US never asked if the troops could stay, and that by the way, they can’t. The troops can come to Iraq for transit out of the region, so they’ll be coming home after all.

This was a problem that should’ve been obvious during the transition. The US presence in Iraq is increasingly controversial, and while the exact US troop numbers in Iraq are classified, it’s known that it’s well above the “cap” negotiated with Iraq already, even before those extra troops started showing up.

There was no way the Abdul Mahdi government could afford politically to accept more US troops, particularly when they just started wandering in from Syria without permission. How long they’ll be in Iraq isn’t clear, but it’s not a permanent deployment.

This will complicate the ability of the US to reverse the pullout if they eventually decide to, though with at least 200 US troops staying put in Syria anyhow, that may matter less.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of