US withdraws from northern Syria ahead of Turkey military operation

World Today

A dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy. The Trump Administration is withdrawing U.S. troops from Northern Syria, effectively abandoning its Kurdish allies, who were instrumental in the fight against Islamic State.

The move paves the way for long-threatened Turkish military operations into the region. CGTN’s Gerald Tan has the latest.

U.S. forces begin withdrawing from northern Syria. The surprise move makes way for an imminent Turkish military operation against Kurdish-led forces, who, until now, had been a vital U.S. ally in battles against ISIS.

In a statement released late Sunday night, the White House said, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the move following a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. Erdogan said, “There is a phrase that we always say: ‘we can come any night without warning’. And our determination remains, because it is absolutely out of the question for us to further tolerate the threats from these terrorist groups.

Turkey has threatened an incursion across the border for months. It wants to clear the area of Kurdish control.

Ankara considers Kurdish fighters terrorists and allies of the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish independence in Turkey for decades.

But these forces, who dominate anti-government militias in Syria, have fought alongside U.S. troops for years to defeat the Islamic State group. A spokesman for the militias calls Trump’s decision “a stab in the back.”

Trump has been defending it on Twitter, saying: “The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars.”

It’s unclear if this means Washington would pull back its roughly 1,000 troops completely from northern Syria.

But with the fate of Kurdish fighters hanging in the balance — and defeat of ISIS not yet complete — many question if abandoning this key ally will work in Islamic State’s favor and prolong Syria’s eight-year civil war.