UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) — The United States is considering plans to withdraw most of its troops from northern Syria within days, a US official said on Sunday, in a faster-than-expected timetable for a US pullout amid an escalating Turkish offensive in the region.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced earlier on Sunday that he was acting on orders from President Donald Trump to begin implementing the withdrawal of troops from northern Syria, where there are about 1,000 US troops.
Esber did not specify a date for the withdrawal, saying only that he wanted to implement it “safely and as quickly as possible”.
The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the United States was considering several options but added that the US military would likely pull most of its troops out within days, not weeks.
One said a full withdrawal could take two weeks or more, but that could be done faster than expected.
The revelation of the decision to withdraw quickly follows rapid political events over the past week in Syria, once the heart of the so-called “caliphate” declared by the Islamic State.
The events began last Sunday when Trump, during a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decided to move a few US soldiers from northeastern Syria. Trump’s opponents criticized the decision, saying it paved the way three days later for a Turkish attack on Kurdish fighters allied to Washington.
The sudden US withdrawal from Syria, without any diplomatic solution through negotiations there, is widely seen as a defeat for US foreign policy as the United States has failed to prevent NATO member Turkey’s attack on Washington’s key ally in its war against the Islamic State. in Syria.
The United States has said it will not defend Syrian Kurdish fighters against Turkey and Ankara-backed forces, although the Kurds have fought alongside US forces against the Islamic State and are currently guarding prisons where tens of thousands of members of the militant group are based.
Esper said in a television interview that he expected Syrian Kurds to seek to ensure their survival by resorting to US rivals in the Syrian conflict – Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We strongly expect that … the Syrian Kurds will make an agreement with the Syrian and Russian forces,” Esber said.
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