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US withdraws troops from northeast Syria as Turkey readies offensive

Anindita Ramaswamy and Weedah Hamzah, DPA on

Published in News & Features

ISTANBUL -- U.S. troops started withdrawing from areas in northeastern Syria along Turkey's border, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces said on Monday ahead of a planned Turkish incursion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the move before leaving on Monday on a two-day official visit to Serbia.

"It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home," President Donald Trump wrote in a series of tweets on Monday, justifying his decision to pull out U.S. troops and pave the way for Turkey's assault.

The United States has borne too much of the burden of fighting Islamic State, Trump said, as he criticized European countries as well as Syrian Kurdish militias, who have been the most effective group in fighting the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.

"The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight," Trump said, adding in all-caps that "WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN."

The withdrawal came hours after the White House announced late Sunday that Turkey "will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria," in a stunning reversal of US policy.

 

The statement followed a phone call between Trump and Erdogan, who has long threatened a unilateral offensive in northeastern Syria. The two will meet in Washington in November, Erdogan said.

"Despite our efforts to avoid any military escalation with Turkey ... the US forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border areas with Turkey," said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so," Trump tweeted.

There are about 1,000 US forces throughout north-eastern Syria, top US military officials said recently.

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