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U.S. pulling out of northern Syria; full withdrawal possible

Robert Burns, The Associated Press


Published Sunday, October 13, 2019 1:26PM EDT


Last Updated Sunday, October 13, 2019 3:36PM EDT

WASHINGTON — The United States seems to be heading towards a full navy withdrawal from Syria amid rising chaos, cries of betrayal and indicators that Turkey’s invasion may gasoline a broader battle.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper mentioned Sunday that President Donald Trump had directed U.S. troops in northern Syria to start pulling out “as safely and quickly as possible.” He didn’t say Trump ordered troops to go away Syria, however that appeared like the following step in a fight zone rising extra unstable by the hour.

Esper, interviewed on two TV information reveals, mentioned the administration was contemplating its choices.

“We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation,” Esper mentioned.

This appeared prone to herald the top of a five-year effort to accomplice with Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to make sure an enduring defeat of the Islamic State group. Hundreds of IS supporters escaped a holding camp amid clashes between invading Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters, and analysts mentioned an IS resurgence appeared extra seemingly, simply months after Trump declared the extremists defeated.

The U.S. has had about 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to fight IS. The Pentagon beforehand had pulled about 30 of these troops from the Turkish assault zone alongside the border. With an escalation of violence, a widening of the Turkish incursion and the prospect of a deepening battle, all U.S. forces alongside the border will now observe that transfer. It was unclear the place they might go.

The Pentagon chief didn’t say U.S. troops are leaving Syria totally. The solely different U.S. presence in Syria is at Tanf garrison, close to Syria’s jap border with Jordan. The U.S. and coalition troops there should not concerned within the Kurd mission, and so it appears extremely unlikely the 1,000 being moved from the north would go to Tanf.

Critics say the U.S. has betrayed the Kurds by pulling again within the face of Turkey’s invasion, however Esper mentioned the administration was left with little alternative as soon as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed Trump per week in the past that he was going forward with a navy offensive. Esper mentioned the Kurds have been good companions, “but at the same time, we didn’t sign up to fight the Turks on their behalf.”

The Kurds then turned to the Syrian authorities and Russia for navy help, additional complicating the battlefield.

The prospect of enhancing the Syrian authorities’s place on the battlefield and alluring Russia to get extra instantly concerned is seen by Trump’s critics as a serious mistake. But he tweeted that it should not matter.

“Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other,” he wrote. “Let them!”

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the highest Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, mentioned Trump is weakening America. ‘To be clear, this administration’s chaotic and haphazard strategy to coverage by tweet is endangering the lives of U.S. troops and civilians,” Menendez said in a statement. “The solely beneficiaries of this motion are ISIS, Iran and Russia.”

The fast-moving developments have been an extra unraveling of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Syria, and so they highlighted a rare breakdown in relations between the United States and Turkey, NATO allies for many years. Turkish troops have typically fought alongside American troops, together with within the Korean War and in Afghanistan.

Asked whether or not he thought Turkey would intentionally assault American troops in Syria, Esper mentioned, “I don’t know whether they would or wouldn’t.”

He cited an incident on Friday during which a small quantity of U.S. troops fell below artillery hearth at an commentary submit within the north. Esper known as that an instance of “indiscriminate fire” coming near Americans, including it was unclear whether or not that was an accident.

Esper disputed the notion that the U.S. may have stopped Turkey from invading within the first place. He mentioned Erdogan had made clear he was going to launch his incursion “regardless of what we did.”

Strongly crucial of the Turks, Esper mentioned “the arc of their behaviour over the past several years has been terrible.” He added: “I mean, they are spinning out of the Western orbit, if you will. We see them purchasing Russian arms, cuddling up to President Putin. We see them doing all these things that, frankly, concern us.”

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., mentioned the U.S. and its NATO companions ought to take into account expelling Turkey from the alliance. “How do you have a NATO ally who’s in cahoots with the Russians, when the Russians are the adversaries of NATO?”

In explaining Trump’s choice to withdraw from northern Syria, Esper cited two weekend developments.

“In the last 24 hours, we learned that they (the Turks) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned — and to the west,” he mentioned.

The U.S. additionally has come to consider that the Kurds are trying to “cut a deal” with the Syrian military and Russia to counter the invading Turks, he mentioned. As a consequence, Trump “directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria,” Esper mentioned.

Trump, in a tweet Sunday, mentioned: “Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?”

Esper mentioned he wouldn’t talk about a timeline for the U.S. pullback, however mentioned it will be finished “as safely and quickly as possible.”

The Pentagon had mentioned earlier than the operation started that the U.S. navy wouldn’t assist it, and the U.S. pulled about 30 particular operations troops out of commentary posts alongside the invasion route on the Syrian border to maintain them out of hurt’s means. The Turkish offensive initially coated an space alongside the border about 125 kilometres (77 miles) broad and about 30 kilometres (19 miles) deep. Esper mentioned it has since grown wider and deeper.

Esper mentioned he was conscious of studies of tons of of IS prisoners escaping because of this of the Turkish invasion and of atrocities being dedicated towards Syrian Kurds by members of a Turkish-supported Syrian Arab militia.

“It gets worse by the hour,” Esper mentioned. “These are all the exact things” that U.S. officers warned Erdogan would seemingly occur by ignoring U.S. urgings to not invade northern Syria.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held out the likelihood of fast motion to impose financial sanctions on Turkey, a transfer that Trump has repeatedly threatened if the Turks have been to push too far into Syria.

“If we go to maximum pressure, which we have the right to do — at a moment’s notice the president calls me up and tells me — we will do this,” Mnuchin mentioned. “We could shut down all U.S. dollar transactions with the entire government of Turkey. … That is something we may do, absolutely.”

Esper was interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday.” Mnuchin appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and Engel was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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