US troops start pullout from along Turkey’s border in Syria

US forces during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of Al-Hashisha in this September 08, 2019 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2019

US troops start pullout from along Turkey’s border in Syria

  • US troops will not support Turkey’s ‘long-planned operation’ into Syria
  • ‘United States forces ... will no longer be in the immediate area’

BEIRUT: US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria said American troops began withdrawing Monday from their positions along Turkey’s border in northeastern Syria, ahead of an anticipated Turkish invasion that the Kurds say will overturn five years of achievements in the battle against the Daesh group.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters also accused Washington of failing to abide by its commitments to its key allies in the fight against Daesh. It’s a major shift in US policy.

The American withdrawal came just hours after the White House said US forces in northeastern Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault — essentially abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the years long battle to defeat the Daesh group.

There was no immediate comment from the US on the pullout.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

In the US, Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, as the Kurdish-led force is known, said the American pullout began first from areas along the Syria-Turkey border.

“The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey,” the SDF said in its statement. “Turkey now is preparing to invade northern and eastern parts of Syria.”

“The Turkish military operation in northern and eastern Syria will have a huge negative effect on our war against” Daesh, it added.

The Kurdish-led fighters have been the main US-backed force in Syria in the fight against Daesh and in March, the group captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by Daesh’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2014.

“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Syrian Kurdish force said, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against Daesh in Syria.

A Turkish attack would lead to a resurgence of Daesh, it said. Daesh sleeper cells are already plotting to break free some 12,000 militants detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria in a “threat to local & international security.”

The Kurdish fighters also control the Al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 mostly wives and children of Daesh fighters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, “we have supported the territorial integrity of this country, and we will continue to support it.”

He added that Ankara is determined to ensure the survival and security of Turkey “by clearing the region from terrorists. We will contribute to peace, peace and stability in Syria.”

The Kurdish Hawar news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also say American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad on Monday.


US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

In this file photo taken on September 8, 2019 US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkish troops. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

  • Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria

WASHINGTON: US Democratic lawmakers, joined by some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, introduced a resolution on Tuesday opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, the latest sign of deep disapproval in Congress of his action.
“We have always maintained that, while certainly needed, a sanctions package alone is insufficient for reversing this humanitarian disaster,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement introducing the resolution.
In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, the resolution was led by Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s top Republican.
It also is backed by Senators Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Todd Young, a Republican member of that panel.
Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria.
Several sanctions bills were introduced in the Senate and House, supported by Democrats and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, before Trump said he would impose sanctions.
Trump announced a set of sanctions on Monday to punish Ankara, and a senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday that Washington would threaten more sanctions to persuade Turkey to reach a cease-fire and halt its offensive. The measures — mainly a hike in steel tariffs and a pause in trade talks — were less robust than financial markets had anticipated. Trump’s critics derided them as too feeble to have an impact, and the Turkish currency recovered.