The U.S. government on Sunday said it’s withdrawing roughly 1,000 troops from northern Syria after learning Turkey is planning further attacks in the region.
Those attacks are aimed at Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the decision on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER, SAYING: “So we find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.
So I spoke with the President last night, after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we being a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.” The U.S. withdrawal has raised international outcry, as allies fear a humanitarian crisis – with war crimes potentially committed against civilians by the Turks.
Critics also accuse the U.S. of abandoning its Kurdish allies, who have helped in the fight against ISIS.
The Turkish offensive has sparked the potential for ISIS prisoners to break free.
Esper said another reason for the U.S. withdrawal was the Kurds’ apparent decision to cut a deal with Russia for help – a point he was challenged on by “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan.
(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) CBS ‘FACE THE NATION’ HOST MARGARET BRENNAN, SAYING: “To be clear, the reason the Syrian Kurds are striking a deal here is to protect themselves from being killed by Turkey.” (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER, SAYING: “That’s right.” (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) CBS ‘FACE THE NATION’ HOST MARGARET BRENNAN, SAYING: “But that’s what the United States was doing for them.
They were our allies, that we were advising and assisting and protecting.
It sounds a lot like they were being left to be slaughtered.
So what choice were they left, other than to find someone else to protect them?” (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER, SAYING: “Look, the Kurds have been very good partners in the de-ISIS campaign, they were very good fighters on the battlefield – we obviously enabled that as well – but at the same time, we didn’t sign up to fight the Turks on their behalf.
And we’ve been very clear with them about that.” But Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, said the implication of the U.S. withdrawal would be “terrible.” (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. REP.
ADAM KIZINGER, SAYING: “Leaving an ally behind, abandoning people that we frankly told that we are going to be with is disheartening, depressing, frankly it’s weak, and I don’t see how it follows through on the president’s promise, his biggest promise of the campaign, to defeat ISIS, because I think it is going to resurge.” Turkey now faces threats of possible sanctions from the U.S. Two other NATO allies, Germany and France, have suspended arms exports to Turkey.