Trump says U.S. troops leaving Syria not immediately returning home

by Reuters
Monday, 21 October 2019 16:33 GMT

(Adds details on Trump comments, background)

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he did not want to leave any American troops in Syria, but that U.S. forces leaving the country now would deploy elsewhere before returning to the United States.

Trump, speaking to reporters at a meeting of his Cabinet at the White House, also said that it appeared that the pause negotiated with Turkey was holding despite some skirmishes.

The United States said last week that Turkey was suspending its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria for five days. Turkey began its cross-border operation following Trump's decision two weeks ago to withdraw U.S. troops from the area. U.S officials said then that those troops were expected to be repositioned in the region. Some of them could go to Iraq.

The American withdrawal has been criticized as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who for years have helped the United States fight the Islamic State.

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon was considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants. (Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Grant McCool)

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