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Trump Orders US Troops From N. Syria   10/13 10:09

   Amid growing chaos in Syria, President Donald Trump has ordered all U.S. 
troops to withdraw from the country's north to avoid a bloody conflict between 
Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters that "gets worse by the hour," Defense 
Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amid growing chaos in Syria, President Donald Trump has 
ordered all U.S. troops to withdraw from the country's north to avoid a bloody 
conflict between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters that "gets worse by 
the hour," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.

   Esper, who spoke in two TV interviews, did not say the approximately 1,000 
U.S. troops in Syria are leaving the country entirely. Trump's national 
security team planned to meet later Sunday to assess the situation, Esper said, 
as U.S. officials continue to urge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to 
halt his incursion.

   Asked whether he thought Turkey, a NATO ally, would deliberately attack 
American troops in Syria, Esper said, "I don't know whether they would or 
wouldn't."

   He cited an incident on Friday in which a small number of U.S. troops fell 
under artillery fire at an observation post in the north. Esper called that an 
example of "indiscriminate fire" coming close to Americans, adding it was 
unclear whether that was an accident.

   Esper said he spoke to Trump on Saturday night amid growing signs that the 
Turkish invasion, which began Wednesday, was growing more dangerous.

   "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," 
Esper said.

   The U.S. also has come to believe that the Kurds are attempting to "cut a 
deal" with the Syrian army and Russia to counter the invading Turks, he said. 
As a result, Trump "directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces 
from northern Syria," Esper said.

   Trump, in a tweet Sunday, said: "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 said he would not discuss a timeline for the U.S. pullback, but said 
it would be done "as safely and quickly as possible."

   Esper did not say how many U.S. troops will leave the north, but he says 
they represent most of the 1,000 troops in Syria.

   The Americans have been working for five years with a Kurd-led Syrian group 
known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to combat the Islamic State group. Turkey 
has long objected to the U.S.-Kurd alliance because Turkey considers elements 
of that force to be terrorists tied to an insurgency inside Turkey.

   The Pentagon had said before the operation began that the U.S. military 
would not support it, and the U.S. pulled about 30 special operations troops 
out of observation posts along the invasion route on the Syrian border.

   Esper said he was aware of reports of hundreds of IS prisoners escaping as a 
result of the Turkish invasion and of atrocities being committed against Syrian 
Kurds by members of a Turkish-supported Syrian Arab militia.

   "It gets worse by the hour," Esper said. "These are all the exact things" 
that U.S. officials warned Erdogan would likely happen by ignoring U.S. urgings 
not to invade northern Syria.

   Esper said there was "no way" U.S. forces could have stopped the Turks, who 
assembled a force of about 15,000 troops on the Syrian border, supported by air 
power.

   "We did not sign up to fight Turkey, a longstanding NATO ally, on behalf of 
the (Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces). This is a terrible situation," he 
said.

   Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held out the possibility of quick action 
to impose economic sanctions on Turkey, a move that Trump has repeatedly 
threatened if the Turks were to push too far into Syria.

   "We'll be taking in new information and we're ready to go at a moment's 
notice to put on sanctions," Mnuchin said. "Now we have warned the Turks. ... 
They know what we will do if they don't stop these activities."

   Esper appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday." Mnuchin was 
interviewed on ABC's "This Week."


(KR)

 
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