US pulls troops back in Syria, opening door for Turkish offensive
The US has begun pulling troops back from the northeastern border of Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied to Washington.
It has been slammed as a “stab in the back” by the Kurdish-led forces who are longstanding allies of the US in fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
The move hands responsibility for thousands of jihadist prisoners to Turkey.
The major policy shift was hailed by US President Donald Trump as a bid to exit “endless wars”.
Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said Washington was reneging on an ally.
They warned the move would have a “great negative” impact on the war against Islamist militants.
But Trump said in a series of tweets that it is too expensive to keep supporting the Kurdish-led forces in Syria.
He said: “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars.”
“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” he said.
UN ‘prepares for worst’ for civilians
United Nations assistant secretary general Panos Moumtzis said the organisation was “preparing for the worst” for civilians in northeastern Syria.
He said they must be spared in any Turkish attack in the region.
“We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” he told reporters in Geneva.”
Republican senator Lyndsey Graham said he would introduce a Senate resolution opposing the withdrawal decision.
Graham, who is usually a vocal Trump supporter, called it an “impulsive” move.
“It’s never in our national security interest to abandon an ally who’s helped us fight ISIS,” he told Fox News
“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos.”
Turkish offensive ‘a bad idea’
A US official said troops had withdrawn from two observation posts on the border.
He said they had told the SDF the US would not defend them from an imminent Turkish advance.
US troops elsewhere in Syria remain in position.
Another US official said any unilateral Turkish military offensive in Syria was a “bad idea”.
He added the US “will not help it in any way, but will also not resist it”.
On Sunday, the White House said: “United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate’, will no longer be in the immediate area.”