US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said during an interview for CBS’s "Face the Nation" that the US will be pulling out around 1,000 troops from Syria's north, calling it a part of a "deliberate withdrawal". At the same time, Esper dismissed suggestions that the move, which will leave Syrian Kurds alone in their confrontation with Turkish forces, could be called a "retreat", calling it instead a measure to ensure that US forces are not "put in harm's way".
Esper explained that the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are planning to negotiate assistance from Damascus and Russia to withstand the Turkish offensive. In light of this, he addressed the US president to figure out a way so that American forces wouldn't end up between a rock and a hard place.
"In the last 24 hours […] we have learned that the SDF are looking to cut a deal with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks. And so we find ourselves, we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies, and it's a very untenable situation", Esper said.
The defence secretary also noted that American forces stationed in Syria still have the right to self-defence and hence will fire back in case they are attacked by any forces.
Hot on the heels of Esper's announcement, US President Donald Trump also commented on Washington's decision to withdraw its forces from northern Syria, calling it the right decision. He further said the original move to get the US involved in the Middle East wars a "bad decision" and slammed those, who call on Washington to fight another "endless war", this time for the Kurds.
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?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2019
.....The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2019
Earlier, American troops were nearly shelled by advancing Turkish forces near the city of Kobani close to a US observation post. Although there were no casualties, the Pentagon warned Ankara against such actions in the future as they may prompt a "response", noting that Turkey is aware of all US troop deployments. Ankara said it never intended to shell American forces during its offensive.
The US first announced its plans to withdraw troops from Syria's north mere days prior to official start of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring targeting Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates with whom the US cooperated during the campaign to eradicate Daesh* from Syria and Iraq. The decision reportedly came as a surprise for both the Kurds and many US officials, some of whom called to defend their SDF allies.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia