US defense officials routinely misled President Trump into believing the American troop count in Syria was a lot lower than it actually is, a retiring US diplomat said in a bombshell interview this week.
“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” James Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement, said in an interview with Defense One.
In October 2019, Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria — a decision controversial among lawmakers, defense officials and diplomats.
Pentagon officials convinced the president to leave approximately 200 troops behind to protect oil fields in the country’s east that were at risk of falling under ISIS control, Jeffrey said.
However, the real number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the 200 Trump agreed to leave behind, Jeffrey said, with some officials putting the number as high as 900.