U.S. pulls back troops in northeast Syria, opening way to Turkish attack

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The United States started pulling troops back from the northeast Syria border on Monday, opening the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces lengthy allied to Washington, in a transfer U.S. President Donald Trump hailed as a bid to give up “endless wars”.

The main coverage shift, which palms Turkey duty for hundreds of jihadist prisoners, was denounced as a “stab in the back” by the Kurdish-led forces who’ve been Washington’s most succesful accomplice in preventing Islamic State in Syria.

The forces, generally known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), accused Washington of reneging on an ally, warning it might have a “great negative” influence on the warfare towards the militants.

But Trump mentioned in a number of Tweets it was too expensive to preserve supporting Kurdish-led forces preventing Islamic State, including “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars”.

“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” he mentioned.

In an indication of deepening humanitarian concern, a U.N. official reacted to the transfer by saying civilians should be spared in any Turkish operation in the northeast, including the United Nations hoped that displacement and atrocities may be prevented.

“We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria disaster, advised reporters in Geneva.

A U.S. official mentioned American troops had withdrawn from two statement posts on the border, at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and had advised the commander of the SDF that the United States wouldn’t defend the SDF from an imminent Turkish offensive. U.S. troops elsewhere in Syria stay in place.

The pullback will initially be restricted in scope to a patch of territory close to the Turkish border the place each international locations had been working to set up a particular safety space, a U.S. official advised Reuters on Monday.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on situation of anonymity, didn’t say whether or not the troops would go away the nation or reposition elsewhere in Syria, the place the United States has round 1,000 forces.

Another U.S. official mentioned any unilateral Turkish navy offensive in Syria was a “bad idea” and the United States “will not help it in any way, but will also not resist it”.

In an announcement after Trump spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, the White House additionally pressured that U.S. troops wouldn’t help the operation. “United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate”, will not be in the quick space,” it mentioned.


Erdogan mentioned U.S. troops had began to withdraw from components of northeast Syria after his name with Trump. He mentioned he deliberate to go to Washington to meet Trump in the primary half of November the place they’d talk about plans for the “safe zone”.

Turkey has lengthy argued for the institution of a 20-mile (32 km) “safe zone” alongside the border, beneath Turkish management, driving back the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – which is the dominant drive in the SDF alliance and which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation and a risk to its nationwide safety.

The United States helped the YPG defeat Islamic State militants in Syria, and had been looking for a joint ‘security mechanism’ with Turkey alongside the border to meet Turkey’s safety wants with out threatening the SDF.

The SDF accused Washington of betraying its ally.

“The American forces did not fulfil their commitments and withdrew their forces from the border areas with Turkey, and Turkey is now preparing for an invasion operation of northern and eastern Syria,” it mentioned in an announcement.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool by way of REUTERS/File Photo

SDF official Mustafa Bali mentioned U.S. forces have been “leaving leaving the areas to turn into a war zone”.

“But the (U.S.) statement today was a surprise and we can say that it is a stab in the back for the SDF,” SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel mentioned in an interview with al-Hadath TV.

A Turkish official later mentioned the U.S. withdrawal may take one week, and Turkey would possible wait till it had been accomplished earlier than launching an offensive.


The White House assertion appeared to hand Turkey duty for Islamic State captives who’re held in SDF amenities south of Turkey’s initially proposed secure zone.

“Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” it mentioned. The assertion made pointed reference to Washington’s European allies, saying many captured IS fighters got here from these international locations, which had resisted U.S. calls to take them back.

“The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” it mentioned.

In the primary Turkish remark following the assertion, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin mentioned Turkey’s “safe zone” plan was throughout the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity.

“The safe zone has two aims: to secure our borders by clearing away terrorist elements and to achieve the return of refugees in a safe way,” Kalin wrote on Twitter.

However the Kremlin, the strongest international ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, mentioned Syria’s territorial integrity had to be preserved and Moscow continued to search the withdrawal of all international forces illegally current in Syria.

FILE PHOTO: Fighters from a brand new border safety drive beneath the command of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dance throughout a commencement ceremony in Hasaka, northeastern Syria, January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo

Turkey says it needs to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone. It hosts three.6 million Syrians sheltering from their nation’s greater than eight-year-old battle.

Turkey’s lira TRYTOM=D3 was buying and selling weaker at 5.7150 towards the U.S. greenback, towards a detailed of 5.70 on Friday. The Turkish presidency mentioned that in the course of the name between Erdogan and Trump, Erdogan had expressed his frustration with the failure of U.S. navy and safety officers to implement the settlement between the 2 international locations on a secure zone.

The NATO allies agreed in August to set up a zone in northeast Syria alongside the Turkish border. Turkey says the United States moved too slowly to arrange the zone. It has repeatedly warned of beginning an offensive by itself into northeast Syria.

For graphic on the place Kurds reside, click on on tmsnrt.rs/2OqcPVd

Reporting by Can Sezer; Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Tom Perry in Beirut, and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Alison Williams, Peter Cooney, Simon Cameron-Moore, William Maclean

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link reuters.com

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