US forces to withdraw from Syria via northern Iraq

Published 02.01.2019 23:44
Updated 03.01.2019 08:00

U.S. troops in Syria are going to leave the war-torn country through northern Iraq, an Iraqi military officer said yesterday.

The forces "will withdraw through Erbil, not areas controlled by Iraq's [Baghdad] central government," Major General Yahya Rasul said.

He said the U.S. forces may return to the U.S. or transfer to other regions after arriving in Erbil. The officer said the move would not undermine Iraqi sovereignty as a permanent presence of troops is not a subject of discussion.

The U.S. is yet to announce a road map for the withdrawal. Landing at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq last week in a surprise move, Trump told U.S. soldiers in the country that the decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 troops from Syria illustrated his quest to put "America first."

Trump also said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 U.S. forces in Iraq. That's down from about 170,000 in 2007, at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion to topple former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

His visit, however, has drawn criticism in Iraq as Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned him for violating the country's sovereignty.

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