Dangers persist as Iraqi border crossing opens and IDPs return
US troops started pulling out of northeastern Syrian territory held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in late October prior to returning to the Deir al-Zor region along the Iraqi-Syrian border some days later, allegedly to protect oil fields.
US officials have claimed that some troops may be repositioned in Iraq’s westernmost province of Anbar to continue the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Other troops may be left in eastern Syria, but “far away from the Turkish border,” according to a spokesperson in the US-led coalition to fight IS.
It is unclear whether, where and how many of these troops will be authorized to remain in Iraq, with some reports saying they will need to leave Iraq entirely within four weeks. Though Anbar province is currently stable, it remains susceptible to several potentially destabilizing factors.
Al-Monitor spent several days in the Iraqi-Syrian border area near and in Qaim in October and spoke to tribal leaders, local security forces and internally displaced people, or IDPs, who had recently returned to the area.