The Pentagon's plan to implement President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria included relocating troops to western Iraq while maintaining control over airspace in areas east of the Euphrates River and in al-Tanf base in southeast Syria.
It also included the possibility of operating military bases close to Iraq's border to “protect” oil wells and postpone Syrian regime advances there. This is also to provide protection for prisons containing dangerous ISIS detainees.
All US troops withdrawing from northern Syria are expected to be relocated to western Iraq, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed.
Esper told reporters that, under current plans, soldiers would be redeployed to help stop the resurgence of ISIS.
Trump had asked the US Department of Defense to develop plans to implement his political decision to withdraw from Syria and establish, according to understandings with Turkey, a safe zone northeast of Syria at a depth of about 32 km and which extends about 440 km.
According to information available to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Pentagon's plan included the following elements:
- Relocating 700 US soldiers from eastern Syria to west of the Euphrates.
- Maintaining the presence of the international coalition against ISIS in eastern Syria’s airspace.
- Upholding the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in the Syria, signed with Russia, with the possibility of discussing amendments.
- Keeping hold of al-Tanf military base, nestled at the corner of Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian borders. This includes maintaining a special forces unit and providing intelligence support for the Syrian opposition, in order to fight ISIS.
- Retain elements of contractors from private military firms near oil wells and gas plants (the eastern Euphrates region comprises 90 percent of Syria's oil).
- Moving military bases to areas near oil wells near the Iraqi border to prevent their transfer to Damascus before reaching understandings.
- Discussing a proposal on providing international protection and special forces for prisons detaining ISIS elements considered dangerous by Western countries.