US troops in northern Syria ordered to leave country: US official

Syrian Kurds gather around a US armored vehicle during a demonstration against Turkish threats on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria’s Hasakeh province on Oct. 6, 2019. (File photo: AFP)

All US troops in northern Syria have been ordered to leave the country in the face of Turkey’s attacks on Kurds in the region, a US official said Monday.

Some 1,000 troops will vacate the country, leaving behind only a small contingent of 150 in the southern Syria base at Al Tanf, the official said, one day after President Donald Trump ordered the evacuation.

“We are executing the order,” the official told AFP.

Earlier on Monday, US President Donald Trump said that Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria might be releasing captive ISIS militants to lure US troops back to the area, adding that they could be easily recaptured.

The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has raised concerns that ISIS militants and their families held by the Kurdish-led forces, long allied with Washington, may escape and revive the group.

On Sunday Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that Trump had ordered the withdrawal of the remaining troops deployed in northern Syria, with the US seeking to avoid getting caught between two allies.

But Esper did not make clear whether the troops would simply pull back to a position further south or quit the country completely.

Trump’s critics accuse him of abandoning the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who Ankara says support Kurdish rebels inside Turkey.

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said on Sunday it has agreed with the Syrian government for the Syrian army to be deployed along the Syrian-Turkish border.

The army deployment would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin, a statement said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:05 - GMT 11:05
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