KURDS in northern Syria took to the streets over the weekend, pleading with US soldiers who are pulling out of the war-torn region under the orders of President Trump.
Trump’s decision to remove US troops has left hundreds of thousands of Kurds vulnerable to attacks by Turkey – with the two sides currently in the middle of a five-day, US-brokered ceasefire until Tuesday evening.
US forces withdrew from a key base in northern Syria Sunday, two days before the end of a US-brokered truce to stem a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in the region[/caption]
Kurdish civilians took to the streets to plead with US soldiers who they feel are abandoning them[/caption]
Since American forces began pulling out of the region, 300,000 Kurdish people have been displaced and at least 114 civilians have reportedly been killed since October 9.
Footage of the Kurdish pleas for help appeared on social media over the weekend, with one video showing protestors attempting to block a 70-strong military convey in Tal Tamr.
One protestor’s sign read: “Thanks for US people but Trump betrayed us.”
Another said: “To the US army who are leaving northeast Syria: Tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks and we did nothing to protect them.”
As outrage over Trump’s decision has grown, one White House official indicated to the New York Times on Sunday that the president is now considering leaving 200 Special Operations troops in eastern Syria.
The US began withdrawing the majority of its 1,000 troops based in northern Syria came Trump declared the US had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters.
Critics of Trump’s decision – including military leaders and politicians on both sides – argue that many Kurds helped the US in its fight against ISIS in the region.
A US official told the New York Times President Trump is now considering leaving 200 Special Operations troops in Syria[/caption]
Since Trump announced his decision to remove US troops, Turkey has increased its offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces, the de facto army of the Kurds, which is seen as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
If Trump were to leave a couple hundred troops in the region, it would be the second time in 10 months that the president has reversed a declaration about removing US forces from Syria.
Last December, Trump declared all 2,000 US troops would be removed from the country immediately, only to then opt for a more gradual withdrawal.
REMAINING IN IRAQ
The plan explained to the Times would see the remaining US soldiers based on the border between Iraq and Syria, away from the cease-fire zone negotiated to last until Tuesday evening.
One newly-relocated special forces soldier showed off his solitary with the Kurdish forces on Sunday, wearing a bright green patch that was banned by officials in 2016.
The patch features the letters YPJ and is the symbol of the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units.
US soldiers were banned from wearing YPJ patches as well those with the letters YPG, the male protection units, as they showed a level of solidarity with the Kurds which enraged Turkey.
Despite Trump’s declarations that he is removing troops from the “endless war” in the Middle East, Mark Esper, the US Defense Secretary, said that the soldiers who were being removed from the Sarrin military base in northern Syria – the US’s largest in the region – were heading to western Iraq to continue their work tackling ISIS.
Esper did not rule out the possibility of the US carrying out counterterrorism missions into Syria from Iraq – though those details are yet to be worked out, he said.
In response, Trump tweeted: “USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday that “the quickest way to get them out of danger was to get them into Iraq.”
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Under an agreement between the two countries, the US currently has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq, which it left in 2011 when combat operations ended, only to return in 2014 to tackle ISIS.
Esper said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting this week to discuss the way ahead for the counter-IS mission.
Though he acknowledged reports of intermittent fighting despite the cease-fire agreement, Esper said that overall it “generally seems to be holding,” adding, “We see a stability of the lines, if you will, on the ground.”
Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.