Defense Chief: US Troops Leaving Syria to Go to Western Iraq


Turkey launched a cross-border incursion into Syria on October 9, after Trump said he would pull back U.S. special forces in the Kurdish-held north.

Both sides have accused the other of breaking the five-day ceasefire and Erdogan was bullish on Saturday when he said "we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists' heads", according to the BBC.

The Turkish forces have been besieging the city for days, after Ankara launched a wide-scale assault in northern Syria on October 9 to eliminate the Kurdish forces, impose a safe zone and resettle millions of Syrian refugees.

Kino Gabriel of the Syrian Democratic Forces said Sunday's evacuation was part of the agreement to pause military operations with Turkey with American mediation.

Erdogan also said he would discuss during his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week what to do about troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who have deployed to the border after striking a deal with the Kurds.

The Kurdish-led SDF told CNN that shelling by the Turkish military and the Syrian rebel proxies supporting them has hit a number of civilian areas in Ras al-Ain, including a hospital. Again, if it works, it works.

As President Donald Trump claimed that he was "bringing soldiers home", he was contradicted by his defence secretary, Mark Esper, who said the troops were instead headed for Syria's neighbour to join an existing U.S. force of 5,000.

On Thursday, Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley spent much of the day on Capitol Hill briefing angry Senate and House Armed Services Committee members in classified hearings on Turkey's incursion into Syria.

On Sunday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group said ambulances transporting wounded civilians and fighters had been allowed to leave.

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The ministry also said it was in "instant coordination" with the United States to ensure the continuity of calm, excluding instances of "self-defense". Turkey cast it as a victory in its campaign to control territory more than 30 km (around 20 miles) deep into Syria and drive out Kurdish fighters from the YPG, the SDF's main Kurdish component.

Khalil said that once the Ras al-Ayn evacuation was carried out, Kurdish-led forces will withdraw from a swath of border territory in accordance with the USA -brokered deal. Khalil said a partial evacuation happened earlier Saturday from Ras al-Ayn after much stalling and with United States co-ordination.

A Kurdish commander has warned that the Turkish offensive launched in northern Syria and an agreement with the end hostilities would lead to "ethnic cleansing" for which the US bears "full responsibility".

The president declared this past week that Washington had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America's partners fighting in Syria against IS extremists. His move was criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside USA troops against Islamic State.

However, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the same afternoon he would restart a full-out offensive if Allied forces didn't pull back.

On Saturday, the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 41 suspected Islamic State members were re-captured after fleeing a detention camp amid fighting earlier this week in Syria.

Sunday's pullout, the fourth such withdrawal of American forces in a week, left Syria's northern provinces of Aleppo and Raqa empty of USA troops, Abdel Rahman said. Dubbed "Operation Peace Spring", the stated goal is to create a "safe zone" on Turkey's eastern border that is free from terrorist groups.

The US-brokered ceasefire in northern Syria "generally seems to be holding" despite "reports of intermittent fires", Esper said, but he could not say who is committing those violations.