At least four US personnel were killed yesterday in an ISIS suicide bomb attack in Manbij in northern Syria.
US Central Command confirmed that two US soldiers, a defence department civilian official and a defence department contractor were killed.
The CentCom statement said three soldiers were also wounded in the attack. A spokesperson for ‘Operation Inherent Resolve,’ the US-led coalition fighting the Islamist militant group, said that “US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol” and that it was still gathering details. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 17 people were killed, including civilians.
The attack occurred in rebel-held Manbij, where US troops are supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and as a buffer between Kurdish militias and Turkish forces, who view the Kurdish fighters as terrorists. ISIS said a Syrian fighter had detonated his explosive vest while targeting a foreign patrol in Manbij.
Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US troops had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014. The attack comes less than a month after President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement to withdraw all US troops from Syria, on the premise that ISIS had been defeated.
Speaking at the State Department yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence said: “The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” He continued: “Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we’re now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners and we’re bringing our troops home.”
Pence said the US would: “Stay in the region and we’ll stay in the fight to insure that ISIS does not rear its ugly head again.” Later in the day, Pence released a statement condemning the ISIS attack and said: “We will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever.”
In late December President Trump visited Iraq and was told by military commanders that pockets of ISIS militants remained along the Euphrates Rivers and that the US military had not yet eliminated all of their strongholds.
There are approximately 2,000 US troops in Syria, with no specific date for their withdrawal. Last week, the US began withdrawing some military equipment from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.