Defense secretary says U.S. troops in Syria to transfer to Iraq, Trump maintains they're coming home

Tim O'Donnell

It appears U.S. troops leaving Syria won't be coming home — at least not yet — as President Trump had indicated last week, and reiterated today.

Instead, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that all U.S. troops leaving northern Syria will be re-stationed in western Iraq where they will reportedly defend the country and continue to conduct preventative operations against the Islamic State, as the cease-fire brokered with Turkey in northern Syria mostly seems to be holding. Esper also did not rule out counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria.

The plan calls for about 1,000 troops to head to Iraq, adding to the more than 5,000 troops currently in the country. "Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that's the game plan right now," Esper said. The secretary added that he will talk with U.S. allies at a NATO meeting next week to discuss how to handle military operations to block any resurgence from ISIS.

But Trump still maintained that troops were coming home in a Sunday morning tweet, in which he also called Esper the wrong name.



Read more at NBC News and The Associated Press.

Update: Trump has since removed the original tweet and posted another in which he referred to Esper by his correct name, and said the U.S. is "ending endless wars" rather than "bringing soldiers home."