Skip to main content

Intel: Here’s how many US troops Trump wants to keep in Syria

After months of uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding US troop levels in Syria as part of President Donald Trump’s mission to secure the war-torn country’s northeast oil fields, the Pentagon is finally disclosing a number.
A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari - RC1AB61E8440

After months of uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding US troop levels in Syria as part of President Donald Trump’s mission to secure the war-torn country’s northeast oil fields, the Pentagon is finally disclosing a number. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States would keep roughly 600 troops in Syria during an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Esper’s disclosure indicates that Trump is reducing troop levels in Syria by about 40% since his decision to withdraw more US soldiers from the country in October — including from the northeast border with Turkey, which led critics to charge that he greenlighted the Turkish offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Trump argues the troops will keep Syrian oil fields from falling back into the hands of the Islamic State despite the territorial defeat of the caliphate. But the residual presence will also allow the Defense Department to continue counterterrorism operations with the YPG, a major point of contention in the troubled US-Turkey alliance.

The United States also maintains approximately 200 troops at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria as part of an effort to contain Iran’s land bridge across Iraq and into Lebanon.

What’s next? Trump may be scaling down US soldiers in Syria, but he has also dispatched roughly 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia this year as part of his maximum pressure campaign on Iran. And The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Trump is expected to make a decision by the end of the month on whether to deploy as many as 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East.

Know more: Read congressional correspondent Bryant Harris’ exclusive report on presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard’s efforts to force a vote requiring Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria despite opposition from Democratic leadership.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial