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
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,"
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
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
"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
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."