In Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper maintained that “our mission in Afghanistan has not changed. We continue to conduct counterterrorism operations while supporting the development of the ANDSF [ie, Afghan National Defence and Security Forces]”. “We are facing a virulent terrorist threat that originated in the form of al-Qaeda, and now finds itself in the Taliban and ISIS-K and other groups”, he added. On Syria, asserting that having destroyed the physical caliphate of ISIS met both Kurds’ and U.S.’s goals, Secretary Esper specified that “we had no obligation, if you will, to defend the Kurds against a longstanding NATO ally [i.e. Turkey]”. While media reports suggested that the withdrawal process of U.S. troops from northern Syria to Iraq had started, Secretary Esper announced that “we have troops in towns in northeast Syria that are located next to the oil fields, the troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal”. He added that “a purpose of those forces, working with the SDF, is to deny access to those oil fields by ISIS and others who may benefit from revenues that could be earned”.
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