In the latest surge of anti-war rhetoric from the Trump administration, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. is launching a “deliberate withdrawal” of American forces from northern Syria, but refused to say how long it will take.
“We want to conduct it safely and quickly as possible,” Esper told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday morning, adding, “I’m not prepared to put a timeline on it, but that’s our general game plan.”
Two knowledgeable U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the troops are just withdrawing further away from the advance of Turkish forces massacring the Syrian Kurds whom America relied upon to destroy the so-called Islamic State’s caliphate.
There are currently 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria. A knowledgeable U.S. official said hundreds of those troops, without further specificity, will leave Syria for elsewhere in the Mideast. Following a pullout from two northern Syrian observation posts last week, the U.S. will now retreat further away from the area Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invaded.
Esper said that President Donald Trump gave the withdrawal order because Turkish forces are pushing further south into Syria and Kurdish forces are trying to cut a deal with Syria and Russia to counter-attack.
“We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation,” he said.
But as Esper made clear, the order affects only the north and there will still be American forces in the rest of Syria even as Trump—who separately has ordered about 14,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf region over the past six months—rails against the disastrous, bloody and interminable U.S. misadventure in the Middle East over the past generation.
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