U.S. withdrawing last troops from northern Syria

Esper said: “It’ll be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it as safely and quickly as possible.” Turkey invaded northern Syria last week in pursuit of Kurdish forces, whom it regards as the enemy because of Kurdish hopes of forming its own country in territory that includes parts of Turkey. The Kurds had…

Esper said: “It’ll be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it as safely and quickly as possible.”

Turkey invaded northern Syria last week in pursuit of Kurdish forces, whom it regards as the enemy because of Kurdish hopes of forming its own country in territory that includes parts of Turkey. The Kurds had been fighting alongside U.S. troops in the battle against ISIS, but became vulnerable to Turkish attack when President Donald Trump announced that U.S. forces would be moved out of the area, effectively giving Turkey the go-ahead to invade.

“It’s a very terrible situation over there,” Esper told Brennan. “A situation caused by the Turks by President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan. Despite our opposition they decided to make this incursion into Syria. And at this point in time in the last 24 hours we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west.

Esper expressed outrage over reported Turkish atrocities against Kurdish civilians.

“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible situation. We condemn it. We have condemned it,” he said.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. did not have an obligation to protect the Kurds, but said the Trump administration would punish Turkey if need be.

“Our role in Syria was not to defend the Kurds,“ Mnuchin said. “You have a long-standing conflict between people helping us with ISIS and Turkey which is a NATO ally. We’ve put them on warning. The president has authorized me to shut down the Turkey economy and we can do that at a moment’s notice on his command.“

The administration’s decision to leave Kurdish forces exposed drew widespread condemnation from many in Congress, including such Trump allies as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Mnuchin defended Trump against those criticisms.

“I like Lindsey Graham a lot. Lindsey Graham and the president are close. This is an area they don’t agree on. These are complicated issues. I assure you the president and the national security staff are on top of the situation. Our No. 1 issue is making sure that ISIS is defeated,“ he said.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that hundreds of ISIS supporters had escaped from where they were being confined amid the Turkish bombardment. Their escape added an additional level of instability to the region.

Calling American presence in northern Syria essential for the fight against terrorism, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice said Trump’s decision to withdraw was a bad one all around.

“The fight against ISIS is not entirely won, Rice said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN, saying Trump has given a “get-out-of-jail-free-card” to ISIS terrorists.

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