U.S. pullback in northeast Syria complete – Defense Secretary

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the pullback of American forces in northeast Syria was complete, leaving around 600 troops to maintain a stable posture in other parts of the country, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The announcement could mark the end of uncertainty over the U.S. presence in Syria that has reigned since President Donald Trump declared a full withdrawal in October, Reuters said.

The October withdrawal pulled American troops away from the Syrian border with Turkey, paving the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish-led militias they had been deployed alongside in the fight against the Islamic State.

This triggered outrage in Congress, including among Trump’s close Republican allies. The president later rowed back on the full withdrawal and instead vowed to leave U.S. forces to “protect the oil” in Kurdish-held areas in eastern Syria.

Esper said the military pullback had removed around 400 of the 1,000 troops stationed in Syria before October, and that this number could be augmented if required or fall lower if an allied nation provides more troops.

“The coalition is talking a lot again. We could see some allies want to volunteer troops,” Reuters quoted Esper as saying. He did not indicate any imminent deployment from allies.