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Wednesday , March 3 2021

American troops leaving Syria cannot stay in Iraq

DAESH kills two senior Iraqi officers

FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2019 file photo, U.S. soldiers survey the the safe zone between Syria and the Turkish border near Tal Abyad, Syria, on a joint patrol with the Tax Abyad Military Council, affiliated with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under the current plan all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq, and that the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent a resurgence in that country. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

BAGHDAD, Oct 22, (Agencies): US troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq’s military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion of the border region. The statement appears to contradict US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.

On Tuesday, Esper said he plans to talk to Iraqi leaders to work out details about the US plan to send American troops withdrawing from Syria to Iraq, adding that the US has no plans to have those troops stay in Iraq “interminably.” Speaking to reporters at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Esper said he’ll have a discussion with the Iraqi defense minister on Wednesday. He said the aim is to pull US soldiers out and “eventually get them home.”

US President Donald Trump ordered the bulk of US troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists.

The pullout largely abandons the Syrian Kurdish allies who have fought the Islamic State group alongside US troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 US troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf. Angered at feeling betrayed, some residents in areas populated predominantly by Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have pelted the withdrawing troops.

On Monday, a US convoy that was driving down an avenue in the Kurdish-dominated city of Qamishly was pelted with potatoes. “Like rats, America is running away,” one man shouted in Arabic at the vehicles. Near the Iraqi city of Irbil, a small group of young men threw stones at a convoy of US armored vehicles, shouting obscenities as it drove down a main highway, according to a video circulating online. In a statement, the Iraqi Kurdish regional government said the positive role played by US-led coalition forces in northern Iraq, protecting and assisting its residents, should not be confused with an “unpopular political decision” that has been taken – a reference to Trump’s sudden move to withdraw troops from Syria.

The number of American forces in Iraq has remained small due to political sensitivities in the country, after years of what some Iraqis consider US occupation during the war that began in 2003. It is a potentially explosive issue. The US currently has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries. The US pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after IS began to take over large swaths of the country in 2014. After the Iraqi government announced victory against IS in 2017, calls for an American troop withdrawal increased amid concers about America’s long-term intentions, particularly after it withdraws its troops from Syria.

Earlier this year, Trump angered Iraqi politicians and Iranian-backed factions by arguing he would keep US troops in Iraq and use it as a base to strike Islamic State group targets inside Syria as needed. In February, he infuriated Iraqi leaders when he said US troops should stay in Iraq to monitor neighboring Iran.

Six police officers including two senior commanders were killed in northern Iraq on Tuesday when Islamic State militants opened fire on them during a reconnaissance mission, security sources said. Militant attacks on security forces are common in Iraq but the killing of senior commanders is rare. Major General Ali al-Lami, who commands the Iraqi Federal Police’s Fourth Division, and Brigadier General Mohammed Allawi from the same division were killed alongside four members of their security detail, Samara Operations Command sources said. The generals were leading a reconnaissance mission in the Zor area north of Samara in Salahuddin. Militants opened fire on them as soon as they got there.

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