The headquarters building of the United States Department of Defense, Pentagon said on Sunday that President Donald Trump has directed to withdraw up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria, almost the entire ground force in the war-torn country. His announcement comes amid an intensifying Turkish assault on Kurdish forces.
According to the Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the move came after the US realized that Turkey was pressing further into Syria than had been expected. Later the Kurds declared that they had reached a deal with the regime in Damascus to deploy Syrian troops near the border to confront the Turkish offensive.
The Kurds collaborated with the US to combat the Islamic State (IS) group.
Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation”, “We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.”
“So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.”
Esper further stated that he was unable to provide a timeline because of the rapidly changing situation on the ground but also added that the withdrawal would be carried out in a “very safe, deliberate manner.”
Esper told sources, “Look it’s a very terrible situation over there, a situation caused by the Turks… Despite our opposition, they decided to make this incursion into Syria.”
“And at this point in time in the last 24 hours, we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west,” he added.
The Defense Secretary also pointed to a possible deal on a Syrian troop deployment near the border with Turkey to help the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confront Ankara’s offensive. The Kurdish administration in northern Syria later confirmed the deal.
On Friday, after US troops came under artillery fire, the US announced the withdrawal warning that the US was ready to meet aggression with “immediate defensive action”. Pentagon has claimed that the attack came from the Turkish position.
Esper was asked if the troops would be leaving the country altogether, he4 replied saying the withdrawal was just from northern Syria, “which is where most of our forces are.” The fighting has provoked an international outcry and left dozens of civilians and fighters dead.
A top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said in a statement on Sunday, “The president is simply derelict in his duty as president. He is making Americans much less safe, he is undoing years of work to curb (IS).”
“He is making America more susceptible to terrorism by his actions,” he added.