The United States is poised to withdraw some 1,000 troops from northern Syria, its defense secretary said on Sunday, after learning that Turkey planned to extend its military incursion against Kurdish militia further south than originally planned.
Another consideration in the decision, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated, was that Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were looking to make a deal with Russia to counter the Turkish onslaught.
Sunday’s word of the planned evacuation of U.S. forces came after U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Erdogan a week ago then abruptly shifted policy and withdrew a smaller number of U.S. troops deployed to support Kurdish forces in the campaign against Daesh terrorist group.
On the other hand, Syrian state media reported that the Syrian army has begun deploying its troops to northern battlefronts to confront “Turkish aggression” on Syrian territory.
A Syrian Kurdish politician said the SDF and Syrian government were in talks at a Russian airbase on how to halt Turkey’s attack, and Syrian state media said Syrian soldiers were being sent north to confront the offensive.
Meanwhile, new reports of civilian casualties surfaced. A Turkish air strike in Ras al Ain killed 14 people including 10 civilians on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. The SDF said a “civilian convoy” had been targeted.