Trump Weighs Leaving Small Number of Troops in Syria

Elias Hubbard
October 21, 2019

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that the Pentagon was considering keeping some usa troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State (IS) group militants.

Trump earlier this month ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 USA troops in Syria to withdraw after officials said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces.

Syrian Kurdish soldiers have left the border city of Ras al-Ayn as required by a US-brokered ceasefire with Turkey.

Under the deal, the Kurds are to withdraw from a stretch of territory 120 kilometers (75 miles) along the border and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep.

"We believe we can reach an agreement with them to work together in the future, just like we have before", Cavusoglu said.

The source added that the "safe zone" would then be extended to 444 kilometres stretching up to the Iraqi border.

Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.

Despite backing opposing sides in Syria's conflict, Ankara and Moscow have grown closer, their ties strengthened by joint energy projects and Turkey's purchase of Russian air defenses - to the anger of its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, the United States.

Ankara's military action against the People's Protection Units (YPG), who spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, has sparked global outrage.

Erdogan also criticised Turkey's allies for not supporting what he calls a fight against terrorists.

"Can you imagine the whole West stood by the terrorists and all attacked us including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states and European Union countries?" Erdogan, who has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad, has said Turkey has no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border. Erdogan has said he hopes to address the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet in Sochi on Tuesday.

The oil fields are assets that have also been long sought after by Russian Federation and the Assad regime, which is strapped for cash after years of civil war.

The Turkish defence ministry said Sunday that Kurdish forces carried out 20 attacks.

Arab-Kurdish militia spokesman Kino Gabriel points out that all fighters left the area on the same day that the USA military left Syria to reposition itself in Iraq.

"The American guarantor remains weak in its position in deterring the Turkish violations", he said.

The ministry said 12 of the attacks came from the border town of Ras al-Ain in northeastern Syria, one from Tal Abyad and another from Tal Tamr region, adding that various light and heavy weaponry including rockets were used.

Erdogan has also said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts in the "safe zone", prompting criticism from Iran.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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