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AFP
October 15, 2019

US troops in Syria ordered to leave country

World

AFP
October 15, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has begun removing all its troops in northern Syria, a US official said on Monday, after President Donald Trump ordered them to leave in the face of Turkey’s attacks on Kurds in the area.

Nearly 1,000 troops will vacate the country, leaving behind only a small contingent of 150 in the southern Syria base at Al Tanf, the official said. "We are executing the order," the official told AFP. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been pressing a deadly assault against Kurdish forces -- a key US ally in the five-year battle to crush the Islamic State group -- in northeastern Syria since Wednesday last week.

Trump, whose order to pull back US special forces from the border effectively triggered the incursion, has faced a firestorm of criticism for appearing to give Nato member Turkey the green light for the push.

On Sunday Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Trump had ordered the withdrawal of the remaining troops deployed in northern Syria, with the US seeking to avoid getting caught between two allies. But Esper did not make clear whether the troops would simply pull back to a position further south or quit the country completely. Trump’s critics accuse him of abandoning the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who Ankara says support Kurdish rebels inside Turkey.

Earlier Monday Trump said he planned "big sanctions" against Turkey for the attacks into Syria, but also criticised the Kurds for allegedly trying to suck US forces into the conflict.

He suggested the Kurds were releasing Islamic State prisoners in their custody "to get us involved" in the conflict. "Do people really think we should go to war with Nato Member Turkey?" Trump said, ruing "never ending wars."

"The same people who got us into the Middle East mess are the people who most want to stay there!"Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump warned on Monday that Turkey faces imminent sanctions over its incursion into northeastern Syria against Kurdish militia, but also signalled Washington would avoid armed conflict with Ankara.

"Big sanctions on Turkey coming!" Trump said, after Turkish attacks stepped up over the weekend on the Syrian Kurds, who had allied with the US war against the Islamic State group. But Trump also suggested the Kurds were trying to draw the United States into a broader, alleging they were deliberately freeing some Islamic State prisoners "to get us involved" in the conflict.

"Do people really think we should go to war with Nato Member Turkey?" Trump said, ruing "never ending wars." "The same people who got us into the Middle East mess are the people who most want to stay there!"

Trump over the weekend ordered around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria pulled back from the border region to avoid getting caught in the fighting. "We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS’s "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

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