US withdraws troops from northeast Syria abandoning Kurdish allies

EU warns against Turkish military operation

The United States said it was pulling troops from northeast Syria, in a major policy shift which opens the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish-led forces and hands Turkey responsibility for thousands of Islamic State captives. The move angered the Kurdish-led forces who have been Washington’s most capable partner in fighting Islamic State in Syria. The forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), accused Washington of reneging on an ally, warning it would have a “great negative” impact on the war against the jihadists.

A US official said American troops had withdrawn from two observation posts on the border, at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and had told the commander of the SDF that the United States would not defend the SDF from an imminent Turkish offensive.

“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the White House said after President Donald Trump spoke to Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday. “The United States Armed Forces 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,” it added in a statement.

The SDF accused Washington of turning its back on an ally.

“The American forces did not fulfill their commitments and withdrew their forces from the border areas with Turkey, and Turkey is now preparing for an invasion operation of northern and eastern Syria,” it said in a statement.

SDF official Mustafa Bali said US forces were “leaving the areas to turn into a war zone”.

In the first Turkish comment following the statement, Erdogan’s spokesman said Turkey’s “safe zone” plan was within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity.

The European Union warned on Monday against any Turkish operation against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, after a surprise US decision to pull its troops out of the region.

“In light of the statement made by Turkey and the U.S regarding the evolution of the situation, we can affirm that, while recognizing Turkey’s legitimate concerns, the EU has from the very beginning said that any sustainable situation will not be reached by military means,” a spokeswoman told a news briefing.

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