U.S. commences evacuation of 1,000 troops from Syria
Following heavy clashes between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, the United States has said it is evacuating all its troops from the country.
The Pentagon had last Friday confirmed that its troops in Kobani, Syria were under artillery fire from Turkish forces.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday that Turkey “likely intends” to extend its attack further than originally planned.
The Turkish offensive is aimed at dislodging the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara claims is a branch of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.
Esper said the SDF was in negotiations with the Syrian and Russian governments to form an alliance against the Turkish force.
The Kurdish authorities are “looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks in the north,” Esper said.
The Kurdish administration later announced on Sunday that it had struck an agreement with the Damascus government.
“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian Army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the Kurdish administration said.
Earlier, Syrian government media said the army was sending troops to the north to “confront the Turkish aggression,” without giving further details.
The United Nations has said that more than 130,000 people have fled their homes because of the Turkish offensive.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to pull out all American troops from Syria has been widely criticized, with many observers warning that the president’s move will likely lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
Kurdish forces are holding an estimated 10,000 IS prisoners and experts fear they will escape detention as Kurdish and Turkish forces engage in battle.
On October 13, some 700 IS supporters escaped from a detention facility near the northern town of Ain Issa.