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US envoy to Syria admits hiding truth about troops in war-torn country

November 14, 2020 at 10:17 am

Former US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey in Washington, US on 22 May 2019 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

Outgoing US Envoy to Syria James Jeffrey has praised Donald Trump’s approach in the country and has admitted to lying about the number of US troops in Syria.

In an interview with Defense One, Jeffrey confessed: “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.”

He noted that the actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more” than the roughly two hundred troops Trump initially agreed to leave there in 2019.

In 2018 and again in October of 2019, when Trump repeated the withdrawal order, the president boasted that Daesh was “defeated”. But each time, the president was convinced to leave a residual force in Syria and the fight continued.

“What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal,” Jeffrey asserted. “When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS (Daesh), [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”

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Defense One reported that last year Trump agreed to keep several hundred US troops, between 200 and 400, stationed in northeast Syria to “secure” oil fields held by the US’ Kurdish allies in the fight against Daesh.

Based on reports, Defense One expect that the actual number is now higher than 900 today. However, the precise figure is classified and remains unknown even, it appears, to members of Trump’s administration keen to end the so-called “forever wars”.