WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper says President Donald Trump has ordered all U.S. troops in northern Syria to move south, but not leave the country.
Esper tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the conflict between Turkish forces and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters had become “untenable” for the U.S. military.
And that led Trump to direct what Esper calls a “deliberate” withdrawal of American troops from the north. Esper says the forces weren’t ordered to leave Syria entirely.
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.
Trump tweeted on Sunday: “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?”
In a second tweet on Sunday, Trump said: “Do you remember two years ago when Iraq was going to fight the Kurds in a different part of Syria. Many people wanted us to fight with the Kurds against Iraq, who we just fought for. I said no, and the Kurds left the fight, twice. Now the same thing is happening with Turkey…”
Esper also says the U.S. believes the Kurds are about to “cut a deal” with the Syrian army and Russia to enable a counterattack against Turkey and its Syrian proxy forces.