Trump recently slammed the "endless wars", but an apparently not very well publicized Pentagon press release from Oct 8 says:

Despite continued misreporting to the contrary, Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley were consulted over the last several days by the President regarding the situation and efforts to protect U.S. forces in northern Syria in the face of military action by Turkey.

The Department's position has been and remains that establishing a safe zone in northern Syria is the best path forward to maintaining stability.

Unfortunately, Turkey has chosen to act unilaterally. As a result we have moved the U.S. forces in northern Syria out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety. We have made no changes to our force presence in Syria at this time.

So, what is Trump's plan to end or reduce US involvement in Syria? As far as I can tell, insofar (this week) he just let Turkey do its northern-Syria border thing. Maybe that translates into lesser US involvement down the road, but was Trump more explicit about the latter issue, like some sort of schedule?

  • Han't this just happened? His plan appears to be pull the troops out. That reduces their involvement in Syria right?
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 12:14
  • 3
    @Jontia: he did not pull anyone out of Syria this week. There are some 1,000 US military personnel there. He pulled back some 50-100 from the northern border area, but not from Syria. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 12:29
  • Got it, thanks. That'll teach me to do more than skim the headlines.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 12:30
  • @DJClayworth: I was thinking "north" from Syria's perspective, as that's how it's commonly discussed in the media. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:09
  • Why would a reasonable person think Trump actually has an actual plan? The available evidence strongly suggests that he works on whim rather than plan.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


Trump has withdrawn some US troops in Syria to avoid interaction with the Turkish incursion into Northeastern Syria, an area the US and Kurds had control of.

Turkey began a planned military offensive into northeastern Syria on Wednesday, launching airstrikes and artillery fire across the border just days after the Trump administration announced it was pulling US troops back from the area.

The operation is aimed at pushing Kurdish forces -- who were a key ally of the US in the fight against ISIS -- away from Turkey's border.

Apparently this is only in the areas Turkey is supposed to be invading near the Turkish border. It is not a full withdrawal

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Sunday’s announcement did not constitute a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria and that only 50 to 100 U.S. special operations forces were moving to other locations in Syria.

The official explained that Trump’s decision to move the special operators out of the zone of a potential Turkish operation was done to protect troops and keep them out of the crossfire.

Those troops are moving to more secure areas over the next several days, the official said.

There's been no forthcoming plan to do a full withdrawal. Understand that this minor shift has created quite a bit of chaos, in that the US

  1. Let one country openly invade another
  2. Abandoned key allies in the region (the Kurds, whom Turkey considers terrorists)
  3. Could result in the freeing of ISIS fighters

It's highly likely Trump does not want to instigate a full scale war in an election year by simply pulling all troops out.

  • You're not really answering my question. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:01
  • @Fizz I made some edits to better focus the answer.
    – Machavity
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:09
  • You're just restating what I said to Jontia in a comment. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:10
  • 5
    @Fizz "It's just talk and Trump actually has no plan to reduce or end US involvement in Syria" is a good, and likely correct IMO, answer.
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:43
  • Update: It looks like there is the US was forced to fully withdrawal from North Syria, and the SDF has allied with Russia and Damascus for defense against Turkey. It seems the full scale war is on after all: bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50036901
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 1:38

Some more Reuters news on Oct 13:

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday the United States was poised to evacuate about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria after learning that Turkey planned to extend its incursion further south and west than originally planned.

That's still somewhat vaguely phrased. I'm not sure that means complete withdrawal of US troops from all of Syria, i.e. how much does "northern Syria" represent in that statement.

But NBC has more detail:

About 1,000 troops will leave the area "as safely and quickly as possible," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview Sunday. President Donald Trump late Saturday signed off on the order, which would end most of the U.S. military's presence there, two U.S. military officials in the region told NBC News. Only around 300 soldiers would remain in the U.S. military's Al Tanf base in the south, the officials said. [...]

Esper said that the spiraling conflict had become "untenable" for the U.S. military. [...]

U.S. officials told NBC News that the decision to move troops out was largely because Turkish military and proxy forces had set up more checkpoints on the crucial M4 Highway, cutting off the U.S. military's ability to move safely in the northeast and without coming into contact with the Turkish forces or their proxies.

The officials said it was increasingly clear that the Turkish forces were trying to drive the Americans away.

As WaPo reported on the same day regarding the circumstances for this decision:

“This is total chaos,” a senior administration official said at midday, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the confusing situation in Syria.

Although “the Turks gave guarantees to us” that U.S. forces would not be harmed, the official said, Syrian militias allied with them “are running up and down roads, ambushing and attacking vehicles,” putting American forces — as well as civilians — in danger even as they withdraw. The militias, known as the Free Syrian Army, “are crazy and not reliable.”

The were also claims that Turkish forces had deliberately "bracketed" US forces with artillery fire. And in response

According to the unnamed Pentagon official, "shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense." However, "instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased."

And news today is that those 1,000 troops are actually going to Iraq instead

All US troops withdrawing from northern Syria are expected to be relocated to western Iraq, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed.

Mr Esper told reporters that, under current plans, about 1,000 soldiers would be redeployed to help stop the resurgence of Islamic State (IS).

President Donald Trump has previously pledged to bring US troops home. [...]

On a flight to the region, Mr Esper said US forces would be used to "help defend Iraq" and counter an attempt by IS to re-establish itself there.

"The US withdrawal continues apace from north-eastern Syria... we're talking weeks, not days," he said.

"The current game plan is for those forces to re-position into western Iraq."

A senior US defence official cautioned that plans could change "but that is the game plan right now".

And yeah, the plan changed again. The US is now reinforcing with troops the Kurdish controlled oil fields.

Mark Esper told a press conference at Nato headquarters in Brussels that “we are reinforcing our position” in Syria that “will include some mechanised forces”, although he tried to insist the US mission in the country was unchanged.

The goal, he added, was to deny Isis access to the oilfields in north-east Syria, but he would not say how many US troops would remain other than to indicate the number would be fewer than 1,000.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .