US troops have begun withdrawing from positions in northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish operation against Kurdish fighters in the border area.
Kurdish-led forces have until now been a key US ally in Syria, where they helped defeat the Islamic State group, but Turkey regards them as terrorists.
The main Kurdish-led group called the surprise US move a “stab in the back”.
But President Donald Trump defended the pullout, saying it was time “to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars”.
The withdrawal follows a White House statement issued late on Sunday, saying US troops were stepping aside for an imminent Turkish operation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says its aim is to combat Kurdish fighters in the border area, and to set up a “safe zone” for Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
…..again said “NO,” thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the “sucker,” on NATO, on Trade, on everything. 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….
Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
….almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to…..25.6K11:40 AM – Oct 7, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy 8,014 people are talking about this
The UN humanitarian chief in Syria, Panos Moumtzis, says aid workers are “preparing for the worst” if fighting breaks out in north-eastern Syria.
“From experience, this could result in a displacement of people, we want to make sure that we are ready,” he told reporters.
What did the White House say?
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria,” the statement said.
“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.”
The White House also said that Turkey would take over all responsibility for IS fighters captured by Kurdish forces over the past two years.
More than 12,000 men are in detention on suspicion of being IS members in Kurdish-controlled camps located south of Turkey’s planned “safe zone”. At least 4,000 of them are foreign nationals.