Trump ordered larger withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria


Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed Sunday that President Trump has ordered a larger withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria than was previously indicated.

Esper during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” said the U.S. has withdrawn about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria since an initial smaller withdrawal of troops.

Trump made the decision to increase the withdrawal amid reports that Turkey will expand its offensive “farther south than originally planned and to the west,” Esper told CBS’ Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

Esper also referenced reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish force that was allied with the U.S. in the battle against ISIS, is seeking an agreement with the Syrian and Russian governments.

“And so we find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation,” Esper told Brennan.

“So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria,” he said.

Pressed by Brennan on whether Turkish forces would be advancing if U.S. forces remained, Esper said that in talks with other officials, “it became very clear to me that the Turks were fully committed to conducting this incursion” regardless of the U.S. presence.

Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and turn over operations to Turkey has been met with sharp bipartisan criticism, with staunch Trump backers such as Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) accusing him of abandoning an ally and creating an opening for ISIS forces to return to their former strength.

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