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White House Announces Troop Withdrawl From Syrian Border To Allow Turkish Invasion
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to journalists on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One and traveling to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center October 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, Trump will be visiting injured military service members. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump Administration announced a major change to military operations in Syria Sunday night, saying in a statement posted to social media that American troops will begin a withdrawl from the Syrian border to make way for a Turkish incursion into the region.

The withdrawl, the White House, says, will be of a limited scale. A large-scale withdrawl is still on the table, but the United States remains in a “wait-and-see” position, a source with knowledge of the situation told NBC News.

“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in Northern Syria,” the White House statement read. “The United States Armed Force 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 statement also reiterated that the United States is no longer accepting ISIS fighters and that, unless Europe steps up to handle captured members of Islamic State, Turkey will now handle any captured ISIS fighters in the area.

The White House says the policy was solidifed Sunday after a phone call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, though that is the end of coordination on the matter.

A source with knowledge told NBC News that “this Turkish operation could be launched ‘at any time,’ but American forces have currently cut all ties and coordination with the Turkish military, so they don’t expect any advanced warning from Turkey as to when or how this operation will begin.”

Trump has previously suggested that the United States is looking for an exit strategy from Syria, which has turned into a proxy war for major global forces like Iran, China, and Russia, but until late Sunday, there were no concrete plans to leave the Middle Eastern nation. The new troop policy represents the first official, partial withdrawl from the region.

The United States became a peacekeeping force in Syria under the Obama Administration, enforcing a theoretical “red line” against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, but without an official declaration of war, nor an ironclad outline of what crossing the “red line” might mean for Assad. American troops were charged with controlling ISIS in the region, as well, but the “Caliphate” is now mostly dissolved (though, it seems, not officially defeated).

But while the White House — and President Trump — defended the partial pullout Monday, it’s not clear what happens to our staunchest allies in the region, the Syrian Kurds, who have been instrumental in helping to control ISIS. Turkey is likely just as interested in waging war on the Syrian Kurds as they are in accomplishing any other military goal.

Syrian Kurdish forces reported to the Associated Press Monday morning that American troops had already begun their withdrawl and they’re very concerned for what that means for the Kurdish army.

“The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey,” the Syrian Kurdish defense forces said in a statement. “Turkey now is preparing to invade northern and eastern parts of Syria.”

President Trump claimed Monday on Twitter that he would “destroy the economy of Turkey” if harm came to the Syrian Kurds or if Turkey overstepped the boundaries of the incursion plan as it was outlined in his phone call with Erdogan.

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” the President Tweeted. “They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”


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