US Troops Leaving Syria will Move to Iraq: Pentagon
US Troops Leaving Syria will Move to Iraq: Pentagon
A convoy of U.S. armored military vehicles leave Syria on a road to Iraq
21 October, 2019, 20:10
The United States announced the withdrawal of 1,000 American soldiers deployed in northeast Syria on October 13, the fifth day of Turkey's offensive against the YPG, which Ankara considers a "terrorist" group.
Esper said the main goal would be to make sure the Islamic State doesn't gain control of the oil fields and the revenue they generate.
Jordan's state news agency said that King Abdullah II, in a meeting with the Americans, stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria's territorial integrity and guarantees for the "safe and voluntary" return of refugees. "The troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal", Esper said.
Gen. Austin Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Monday confirmed that the number of troops has dropped by 2,000 over the past year to roughly 12,000, reports The New York Times. A senior US defense official warned BBC that the plans could change in the future. Trump's pushed the same message on Twitter, arguing last week, "I am the only person who can fight for the safety of our troops & bring them home".
On October 7, USA soldiers withdrew from the Turkish border in northern Syria on orders of Trump, opening the way for Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces. But he told reporters traveling with him that those details will be worked out over time. President Trump tweeted the following quote from Esper: "The ceasefire is holding up very nicely".
The US president's decision has been criticised in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside US troops in a region rich in oil reserves and farmland.
The Republican president declared this past week that Washington had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America's partners fighting in Syria against IS extremists.
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Esper, who previously served as Army secretary, did not rule out the possibility that US forces relocated to Iraq could still conduct counterterrorism missions inside Syria.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday "the quickest way to get them out of danger was to get them into Iraq".
The US troops and equipment that departed Kobani, near the LaFarge Cement Factory that served as the headquarters of the US-led coalition until F-15 fighter jets launched precision-guided bombs on the abandoned facility, will be repositioned throughout the Middle East.
Despite Thursday's brokering of a five-day cease-fire made between US and Turkey, erratic clashes have continued between Turkish fighters and the Syria Kurdish forces.
The Turkish military's death toll has risen to seven soldiers since it launched its offensive on October 9.
The Kurds were stunned when President Donald Trump two weeks ago abruptly chose to pull US troops out of border areas, abandoning their allied Kurdish-backed fighters ahead of Turkey's invasion.
While en route to Afghanistan, Esper told reporters that those troops will carry out operations against the ISIS terrorist group from the neighboring country, but the Pentagon hasn't yet figured out the logistics.
Earlier, Turkey's defence ministry accused Kurdish forces of carrying out 14 "provocative" attacks in the last 36 hours, mostly in Ras al-Ain, but insisted Turkish forces were fully abiding by the agreement.
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Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara had urged Washington to mediate to ensure an orderly Kurdish pullout. The Observatory said the convoy was evacuating the Sarrin military base on the edge of the planned buffer zone.
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