The U.S. is “preparing to evacuate” about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria “as safely and quickly as possible,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS News on October 13.
Esper told the CBS’ “Face the Nation” that U.S. troops remaining in Syria were caught between Turkish forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“In the last 24 hours, we learned that [the Turks] likely intend to extend their attack further south than originally planned, and to the west … We also have learned in the last 24 hours that the … SDF are looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks in the north,” Esper said.
Local sources in northeast Syria said that U.S. forces are already withdrawing from the city of Ain Issa and the border town of Kobane in northern Raqqa. It’s still unclear if the forces have left the country yet.
Esper’s statement comes amid a Turkish-led military operation in northeast Syria. Turkish forces are working to establish a 120 km wide, 30 km deep “safe-zone” in the region.
Russia and the Damascus government have not talked yet about any possible deal with the SDF. The last year witnessed several talks between Damascus and the Kurdish-dominated group, all were fruitless.
The withdrawal of US troops is another sign that the Turkish operation against the SDF is in fact coordinated with the US. By this, the Trump administration achieves two key goals:
- President Donald Trump finally implements its promise to withdraw US troops from the Syria war zone;
- The Trump administration softens the current tensions in the relations with Turkey and returns the Washington-Ankara dialogue to the pre-S-400 deal implementation new level.