United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, almost two months after President Trump’s ordered a withdrawal of American forces in the region, allowing a Turkish offensive. Trump’s decision in October was at odds with the advice of top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department who had sought to keep a small troop presence in northeast Syria to continue fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces. On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters reunited to conduct a mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, the Pentagon said. The Kurdish fighters, which are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been crucial allies to the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts targeting the Islamic State. The local allies were abandoned by the Trump administration when U.S. troops were withdrawn.
“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters in Bahrain on Saturday. Nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Trump’s withdrawal order and several hundred other troops arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under another order from Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS. General McKenzie said that 500 American forces will be operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into northeast Syria.