WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid growing chaos in Syria, President Donald Trump has ordered all U.S. troops to withdraw from the country’s north to avoid an “untenable” conflict between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.
The approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria are not leaving the country entirely, Esper told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Esper said he spoke to Trump on Saturday night amid growing signs that the Turkish invasion, which began Wednesday, is growing more dangerous.
“In the last 24 hours, we learned that they (the Turks) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned — and to the west,” Esper said.
Trump, in a tweet Sunday, said: “Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?”
Esper said he would not discuss a timeline for the U.S. pullback, but he said it would be done “as safely and quickly as possible.”
Esper isn’t saying how many U.S. troops will leave the north, but he says they represent most of the 1,000 troops in Syria.
He also said it appears the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are trying to “cut a deal” with the Syrian army and Russia to launch a counterattack against the Turks.
Brett McGurk, the former U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS, called the unfolding situation a “total disaster” and warned that there will be “serious consequences” to the U.S. troop withdrawal: