The U.S. Department of Defense is executing a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from northeast Syria due to the Turkish invasion, said Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper in a statement released Monday.
“Due to Turkey’s irresponsible actions, the risk to U.S. forces in northeast Syria has reached an unacceptable level. We are also at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict. Therefore, at the President’s direction, the Department of Defense is executing a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from northeast Syria”, the statement said.
The SECDEF will be visiting NATO next week in Brussels, where he will press “NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions.”
“Despite the opposition and repeated warnings from the United States and the international community, Turkish President Erdogan ordered a unilateral invasion of northern Syria that has resulted in widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to U.S. military forces.”
“This unacceptable incursion has also undermined the successful multinational “Defeat ISIS” mission in Syria, and resulted in the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees.”
Turkey launched a long-planned military operation, codenamed Operation Peace Spring, into northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday.
The military offensive is being conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the opposition Syrian National Army, against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Islamic State “to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border and to bring peace to the area”, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than three decades. But the US backs the YPG and credits the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for helping defeat ISIS in Syria.
The Turkish offensive came just days after Donald Trump’s announcement that US troops would withdraw from the area, where thousands of captured ISIS fighters and their families are held by Kurdish forces.