Within a week of Daesh claiming responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed four Americans and at least ten other people in the Syrian city of Manbij, the US has moved additional troops into Syria to provide protection for the troop withdrawal announced by President Trump in December.
CNN reported defence officials who acknowledged that a security force of armed troops – possibly infantry – would be needed to help carry out the withdrawal of US forces over time. The additional troops are said to have moved in to provide security for troops and equipment as they are moved out by land and air as well as to provide additional security on the ground as the number of US forces dwindles.
The officials said the additional security forces may move around Syria to different locations as needed and may move in and out of the country, but they did not indicate to CNN if any troop withdrawals have taken place or will happen in the immediate future.
The Pentagon is also not expected to publicly discuss any new information about the number of forces on the ground in Syria due to security concerns. But it’s understood that the US has between 2,000 to 2,500 troops currently deployed in Syria. Many – like two of the US soldiers killed in Manbij – are civilian defence contractors.
Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria was been met with strong criticism. The manner of the withdrawal combined with a mini insurgency by Daesh, who Trump had declared had been defeated, will raise further questions about Trump’s Syria policy.
The redeployment of additional US troops to Syria underscored the assertion many had made following the Manbij attack; Trump’s claim, including that of US Vice President Mike Pence several hours after the blast about the militant group being defeated, was deeply flawed.