U.S. Withdrawal from Northeast Syria Has Already Begun
Oct. 7, 2019 (EIRNS)—By all accounts, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from bases near the Syrian border with Turkey began within hours after the White House issued a statement, late Sunday night (Oct. 6) following President Donald Trump’s phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According an Oct. 7 report in the New York Times, administration officials indicated after the phone call that the 100-150 United States military personnel deployed to that area would be pulled back in advance of any Turkish operation but that they would not be completely withdrawn from Syria. In fact, according to Kurdish and Turkish media reports and postings on the Syria Live Update Map website, U.S. troops have already withdrawn from two bases near the border. Reuters reports that a U.S. official said American troops had withdrawn from two observation posts on the border, at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and had told the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that the United States would not defend the SDF from an imminent Turkish offensive.
The Times reports that American officials contacted late Sunday would not say how far back from the Turkish border American troops would redeploy, or whether it signals the beginning of a larger overall withdrawal of the 1,000 American troops now in northeast Syria conducting and supporting counterterrorism operations. “We are not going to support the Turks and we are not going to support the SDF,” one official said. “If they go to combat, we’re going to stay out of it.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman issued a statement, today, expressing the same point, and stating that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley had stressed to their Turkish counterparts “that coordination and cooperation were the best path toward security in the area,” and that unilateral Turkish action in Syria creates risks for Ankara. “As the President has stated, Turkey would be responsible, along with European nations and others, for thousands of ISIS fighters who had been captured and defeated in the campaign led by the United States,” Hoffman said, referring to the thousands of ISIS fighters and tens of thousands of their family members who are in the SDF’s custody.