President Donald Trump has ordered all of the country’s troops to withdraw from Syria amid conflicts between Turkey and Kurdish forces, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.
As clashes between invading Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters intensified, the Kurdish administration in Syria said that 785 people affiliated with the Islamic State escaped from a camp holding about 12,000 displaced people, including woman and children.
Appearing on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Esper said approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria will leave “as safely and quickly as possible,” adding they would not leave the country entirely but move south of Turkey’s attacks.
“We want to make sure we deconflict a pullback of forces. We want to make sure we don’t leave equipment behind. So I’m not prepared to put a timeline on it, but that’s our general gameplan,” he said.
Esper said was aware of the reported escapes and execution of some Kurdish allies of the United States.
“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible situation. We condemn it. We have condemned it,” he said on CBS. “It’s- these are justice things that we told the Turks would happen and play out. Who’s conducting it, it’s unclear at this point and time. There are Turkish regular forces and there are Turkish proxy forces.”
After Turkish forces shelled the Ain Issa area, a riot broke out at the camp among 249 women and 700 children who formerly were part of the “caliphate,” The Guardian reported.
Jelal Ayaf, the co-chair of the camp’s management, said sleeper cells within the civilian section attacked the remaining guards who had not fled.
Ain Issa has served as headquarters for the Kurdish administration and is positioned beside the M4 highway, which is used to transport aid to parts of northeastern Syria.
Trump on Sunday said it was “very smart” not to be involved in the conflict in Syria, adding that he was working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other members of Congress about imposing sanctions on Turkey.
“Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump noted that the “Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said that the military operation in Syria would continue until the Kurdish forces are driven away from Turkey’s borders.
Government troops were moving to the north to confront the Turkish offensive, Syrian TV reported Sunday night.
ByDaniel Uria and Allen Cone