U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria
MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.
The United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria , settling into a more stable posture of about I can dial up a little bit,” Esper said late on Wednesday during a flight back from the NATO summit on the outskirts of London. Esper also didn’t rule out being able to reduce U . S
The United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria , settling into a more stable posture of about 600 troops in the rest of the FILE PHOTO - U . S . Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks before ringing the closing NASDAQ bell for Veterans Day in New York, New
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria, settling into a more stable posture of about 600 troops in the rest of the country after repositioning and reducing forces, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
Esper's remarks in an interview with Reuters could signal the end of a period of turbulence and uncertainty surrounding the U.S. military presence in Syria after President Donald Trump's initial withdrawal order in October.
Pentagon chief says he was ‘flabbergasted’ by Navy secretary’s attempt to make a private deal with Trump
The offer by Richard V. Spencer contradicted what he had told Esper and other senior defense officials in recent days.The offer by Richard V. Spencer, who was ousted by Esper on Sunday, contradicted what he had told Esper and other senior defense officials in recent days: that he was considering resigning if Trump forced the issue, Esper said.
By Phil Stewart. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria , settling into a more stable posture of about 600 troops in the rest of the country after repositioning and reducing forces, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said .
Esper said his Turkish counterpart had told him that Ankara had recaptured some of 100 Islamic State militants who are believed to have escaped from prison in Syria as a result of the Turkish incursion. Esper met Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday in Brussels during a NATO meeting.
Since then, troop levels in Syria have fallen about 40 percent from around 1,000.
Esper stressed he retained the ability to move in and out smaller numbers of forces as needed into Syria. But he suggested the number of troops will fluctuate around the 600-level for the foreseeable future.
"It will be relatively static around that number. But if we see things happen ... I can dial up a little bit," Esper said late on Wednesday during a flight back from the NATO summit on the outskirts of London.
Esper also didn't rule out being able to reduce U.S. troop levels in Syria further if European allies contributed to the Syria mission.
Senators challenge Trump on military pardons
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are pressing the Department of Justice to answer questions about President Trump's pardons of U.S. soldiers accused of war crimes. © Greg Nash Senators challenge Trump on military pardons The Democratic senators want to know whether the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney was involved in the decisions to pardon soldiers accused of unlawful military executions, including fatal shootings of unarmed civilians.
The Kurdish-led administration governing northeast Syria said the Syrian army would station itself Mr. Esper , calling it “a very terrible situation,” said he spoke to Mr. Trump on Saturday evening. The U . S . military is evacuating its roughly 1,000 troops from northern Syria at President Trump’ s direction
The U . S . military pullback from the Kobani area in northeastern Syria near Turkey' s border should take "another week or so" to complete , Defense Secretary Esper said the United States was still supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey views as a terrorist group.
"The coalition is talking a lot again. We could see some allies want to volunteer troops," Esper said, without suggesting any new contribution was imminent.
"If an allied country, a NATO country, decided to give us 50 people, I might be able to turn off 50 people."
The U.S. military says it is focused on preventing a resurgence of Islamic State in Syria and carried out a raid last month that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Trump, in London, said he wanted remaining U.S. forces to ensure Syria's oil reserves don't fall back into the militant group's hands.
"We kept the oil. And the oil is what fueled ISIS," Trump said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
NO MOVEMENT ON TURKEY S-400S
Trump softened his pullout plans for Syria after backlash from Congress, including among key Republicans, who say he cleared the way for a long-threatened Turkish incursion against Kurdish forces in Syria who had been America's top allies in the battle against Islamic State.
Fired Navy leader highly critical of Trump in SEAL case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has written an opinion article sharply critical of President Donald Trump for intervening in the war crimes case of a Navy SEAL. Spencer wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday that Trump’s actions were “shocking” and unprecedented. Spencer was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper for working a private deal with the White House to ensure that Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher be allowed to retire without losing his SEAL status.In his opinion article, Spence acknowledged his mistake, but also asserted that Trump has “very little understanding” of how the military operates and polices its members.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Sunday that President Trump had ordered the roughly 1,000 American troops in the country’ s northeast to “The S .D.F.’ s elite counterterrorism units are hardened veterans of the war against ISIS whom the U . S . has seen in action and trust completely ,” said
Military officials described one incongruous scene in which Syrian government forces — which For the moment, the military is planning on “weeks, not days” to complete the withdrawal, according to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said in a statement on Monday night that the Turkish incursion had
NATO diplomats worry that Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and a critical ally in the Middle East, has increasingly acted unilaterally, launching its incursion in Syria against U.S.-backed forces and buying advanced Russian S-400 air defenses.
Washington says the S-400 system is incompatible with NATO air defenses, poses a threat to Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 stealth fighter jets and announced in July it was removing Turkey from the F-35 program. It has also warned of possible U.S. sanctions.
After summit talks between Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Esper suggested Ankara had not budged yet on the S-400 issue.
"There's no movement at this point," Esper said.
Still, after lobbying by NATO allies, including the United States, Erdogan backed off from a threat to block defense plans for the Baltic states and Poland unless allies declared Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists.
"I think it was a positive move forward," Esper said, of the change in position by Turkey.
"They've been a valuable part of NATO for decades, from the earliest days. So we got to keep them in the fold."
(Reporting by Phil Stewart. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
EXCLUSIVE-Over 300 Saudi military aviation students grounded in U.S. after base shooting .
Over 300 Saudi military aviation students grounded in U.S. after base shooting