A picture taken on December 30, 2018, shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria’s northern city of Manbij. President Donald Trump announced last week that US troops would depart from Syria, leaving Manbij residents dreading a long-threatened attack by Turkey.DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US is “preparing to evacuate” its remaining 1,000 troops in northern Syria, as per a Saturday night authorization for “deliberate withdrawal” by President Donald Trump.
- Esper said during Sunday’s “Face the Nation” segment on CBS News that the US national security team learned in the past 24 hours that Turkish forces will expand their attack further south and west than originally planned.
- He also said that Kurdish forces are looking to work with Syrians and Russians to counter-attack against Turkish forces in the north, and that American forces could be caught in the crosshairs.
- The Trump administration recently announced it would pull troops from northern Syria, which has been criticized as allowing Turkish forces to attack the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight against ISIS.
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An effort to withdraw the 1,000 remaining US troops in northern Syria is underway, after new intelligence shows US forces in the crosshairs of a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) and a possible planned counter-attack.
Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Donald Trump directed the national security team to begin a “deliberate withdrawal” of US forces from northern Syria.
WATCH: .@EsperDoD on the planned evacuation of U.S. troopers in northern Syria.
“I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.” pic.twitter.com/2Ma0XmypfP
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation)
October 13, 2019
“In the last 24 hours we learned that [Turkish forces] likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west,” Esper said.
“We also have learned in the last 24 hours […] the Kurdish forces, the SDF, are looking to cut a deal if you will with the Syrians and the Russians to counter-attack against the Turks in the north. And so we find ourselves is we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.”
Esper specified that the withdrawal, which he said will done “as safely and quickly as possible,” is of troops from northern Syria, which is where he says most of US forces in the country already are.
US forces had been repositioning in northern Syria over the course of the week prior, as Trump announced that several dozen troops would shift away from the Kurdish forces – a move criticized as opening the door for Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight againt ISIS.
Trump has denied that the US is enabling the Turkish offensive, calling it a “bad idea.” However, the move to reposition troops stemmed from a call between Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since then, Turkish forces have entered Kurdish territory in Syria and overtaken a key border town. Artillery fire nearly hit a small group of US forces stationed in a Kurdish-controlled town on Friday, too. ISIS members imprisoned in Syria have indicated a plan for jailbreaks amid the conflict, and a video emerged Friday that appears to show some ISIS members escaping in the aftermath of a Turkish attack.
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- US troops in Syria were nearly struck by Turkish artillery barrages that came dangerously close
- Turkey’s military says it captured a key Syrian border town after an offensive against Kurdish fighters
- Trump says he doesn’t want any ISIS prisoners to escape during Turkey’s offensive, but a new video is said to show just that
- ‘We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to’: The Trump administration just threatened harsh new sanctions on Turkey