According to The New York Times, if Trump decides to leave several hundred military personnel in eastern Syria, it would be the second time since the beginning of the year he's cancelled his own order to withdraw practically all US troops from Syria.
The media outlet's source said that since last week the US president has been thinking about leaving about 200 commandos in northeastern Syria to fight terrorism. It added that US troops were likely to be located along the border with Iraq, outside the safe zone, agreed upon by US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to the newspaper, in addition to the main goal — to prevent the resurgence of Daesh in Syria or neighbouring Iraq — it is important for the United States to assist the Kurds in maintaining control of the oil fields in the east.
Three representatives of the presidential administration and the Department of Defence confirmed that senior US politicians and commanders had discussed such a plan. Trump, according to The New York Times, is now hesitating between two options, either to achieve the ultimate goal and send the US military home from Syria and end the war or to make sure that the containment and weakening of Daesh continues. Per some officials, Trump may say that the deployment of the small contingent is a reasonable way to ensure security in the region and in the United States, without breaking his promise.
Commenting on the possibility of leaving a small number of military personnel in eastern Syria, the White House said that this was not a change of policy, because the main purpose of the withdrawal was to protect the people.
Trump said on 7 October that the US had begun to withdraw its troops from northeastern Syria. The head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, said on 13 October that Washington would withdraw another 1,000 troops from Syria.
On 9 October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria. The offensive is part of Ankara's goal to clear its Syria-facing border area of terrorists and Kurdish militia, which Ankara sees as one and the same, and create a safe zone where Turkey could relocate some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts. Operation Peace Spring is currently on hold for 120 hours as per an agreement between Ankara and Washington.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State/IS), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a wide number of other countries.