Trump orders withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria – Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON, US President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of about 1,000 troops from northern Syria amid Turkey’s operation there, Pentagon chief Mark Esper announced Sunday.

In an interview on CBS network, Esper said “we find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.” “So I spoke with the President (Donald Trump) 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 which is where most of the forces are,” Esper added.

He stressed that “in the last 24 hours we learned that they (Turkey) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west.” On the withdrawal, Esper noted “it’ll be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it as safely and quickly as possible. So we want to make sure we deconflict a pullback of forces. We want to make sure we don’t leave equipment behind. So I’m not prepared to put a timeline on it.” He reiterated that “despite our protestations, despite the fact that we urged the Turks not to do this, they decided to do it and we told them that we would not support them militarily in this action.” “It’s a terrible situation. We condemn it. We have condemned it,” he stressed. “Let’s be clear the United States is not allowing this. Turkey committed this action. They decide to make an incursion in northern Syria despite our protestations, our urgings not to do it, all of our warnings. They decided to do it.” Meanwhile, on Fox network, Esper said that he spoke to his Turkish counterpart a few days ago and sent him “a memo on Friday night, a formal response, warned them that if they do this… which we oppose, we will see everything from the release of (IS) prisoners to humanitarian catastrophe.” “It will damage US relations with Turkey, their staying in NATO. All of this is playing out exactly as we predicted, and we, again, urge (Turkish) President Erdogan to stop and go back to the status quo ante,” he remarked.

He added that “I think Turkey, the arch of their behavior over the past several years has been terrible. I mean, they are spinning out of the western orbit… we see them purchasing Russian arms, culling up to (Russian) President Putin. We see them doing all these things that, frankly, concern us with regard to the direction they are heading.” “We still have been holding out hope that we can get to Erdogan and tell him to stop what he’s doing, return to the border and let’s work on the safety zone, the mechanism. Those talks are still, by the way, underway right now. We want to get to that point and settle this situation now and stabilize it, so we can get back on the right path,” Esper affirmed.

For his part, Trump tweeted “we have become a far greater Economic Power than ever before, and we are using that power for WORLD PEACE.” He noted in a separate tweet “dealing with (Senator) Lindsey Graham and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey. Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!” “We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!” he remarked.

In response, Graham tweeted “good decision by President Donald Trump to work with Congress to impose crippling sanctions against Turkey’s outrageous aggression/war crimes in Syria.” He said in a separate tweet “Turkey is NOT acting as a good NATO ally.”

Source: Kuwait News Agency