Trump removes nearly all US special forces in northeastern Syria

Only a few forces could be maintained at the border with Iraq.

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Donald Trump and his defense secretary, Mark Esper, at the Myer-Henderson military base in Arlington, Virginia, on September 30th. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP

Under pressure from Turkey's offensive, Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of nearly all US special forces from northeastern Syria on Sunday (October 13th). Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the announcement while the US president went to his Virginia golf club. Only a few forces could be maintained at the border with Iraq, in the south, at Al-Tanaf.

Donald Trump had commented on the situation early in the morning on his Twitter account, presenting as a thoughtful withdrawal what looked more like, in the field, a rout. " Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK (related to Syrian Kurds) like the worst of terrorists. Others may want to step in and fight for one side or another. Let them do it! We are watching the situation closely. Endless wars! He had written as if to wash his hands of the ongoing clash between the Turkish army and the Kurdish allies of the United States against the Islamic State organization.

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For lack of pointing red lines to his Turkish ally in a telephone conversation with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week earlier, Donald Trump had placed US forces in a situation that quickly proved impossible. While a senior official had assured Monday that a total withdrawal of US special forces was not relevant, the military pressure has continued to increase. Friday, the Pentagon had even had to protest against Turkish artillery shelling deliberate near one of their positions. When questioned, the president of the United States had evaded.

Donald Trump decided alone, indifferent to the consequences of the go-ahead, despite his official denials, to Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Taken by surprise, the United States has dressed in the hurry, without being able to get any guarantee on the fate of jihadists held by their Kurdish allies. According to New York Times, the rapid advance of Turkish troops has prevented them including the transfer to a safe place about sixty detainees considered particularly dangerous.

Several assessments could be drawn Sunday night, a crisis which Donald Trump was the initiative and which is undoubtedly among the most significant of a presidency so far relatively spared. Despite the discontent expressed as never throughout the week by the majority of Republican cadres, as well as in a more discreet manner by military officials, Donald Trump decided alone, indifferent to the consequences of the go-ahead, despite of his official denials, to Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


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