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SecDef: US Troops Caught Between Advancing Armies

Esper says US 'preparing to evacuate' troops from Syrian north
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 13, 2019 8:39 AM CDT
In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from fires on targets in Tel Abyad, Syria, caused...   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
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(Newser) – Amid growing chaos in Syria, the US is "preparing to evacuate" and President Trump has ordered all US troops to withdraw from the country's north to avoid a conflict between Turkey and Kurdish fighters, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday. The approximately 1,000 US troops in Syria are not leaving entirely, per the AP. Esper spoke to Trump on Saturday night amid growing signs that the Turkish invasion is growing more dangerous. "In the last 24 hours, we learned that they (the Turks) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned—and to the west," Esper said. "And so we find ourselves, we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies, and it's a very untenable situation."

Trump, in a tweet Sunday, said: "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?" Esper said he would not discuss a timeline for the US pullback, but he said it would be done "as safely and quickly as possible." Esper isn't saying how many US troops will leave the north, but he says they represent most of the 1,000 troops in Syria. He also said it appears the US-backed Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are trying to "cut a deal" with the Syrian army and Russia to launch a counterattack against the Turks.

(Read more Syria stories.)

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