U.S. Forces Will Stay in Iraq and Could Reenter Syria from There, Trump Says by Paul Sonne and Tamer El-Ghobashy – Washington Post
President Trump said he has no plans to withdraw American forces from Iraq, a week after announcing a surprise pullout of troops from Syria and ordering the Pentagon to bring home roughly half of the American forces deployed to Afghanistan.
The decision allows the United States to maintain a presence in the heart of the Middle East and a bulwark against Iranian influence, while also keeping a nearby staging ground should American troops be forced to reenter Syria and engage a resurgent Islamic State.
A longer-term presence in Iraq provides Trump with a hedge against his withdrawal from Syria, a decision that was widely opposed by his advisers and which led to the resignation of his defense secretary, retired Marine Corps general Jim Mattis.
The development also suggests that Trump’s proclamation of victory over the Islamic State in a video message from the White House lawn last week had been overstated. Trump said during a visit to Iraq on Wednesday that a presence in the country would enable the United States to reenter Syria if need be, suggesting that concerns persist about the possibility of the Islamic State regrouping there…