Wednesday 13 November 2019
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The News - 22 days ago

Trump says ?small? number of US troops remain in Syria

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said that a small number of US troops remain in Syria, even if the controversial withdrawal of soldiers from a key Kurdish area bordering Turkey is proceeding nicely. Trump s statement at a cabinet meeting in the White House contradicted his repeated insistence that he wants all US soldiers out of Syria, adding to an already confused situation.Trump said the contingents were near Israel and Jordan, at their request, and also guarding oil fields. The deployment to control the oil is in a little different section to where the pullout from the Kurdish area is taking place, he said, without further providing detail. The other region where we ve been asked by Israel and Jordan to leave a small number of troops is a totally different section of Syria, he said. That s a totally different section, that s a totally different mindset. He defended the accelerating departure of a key US force from the traditionally Kurdish area, leaving one of America s staunchest allies in the fight against Islamic State group militants to face invading Turkish forces. They re moving out very nicely, he said of the US troops. Trump denied that the soldiers were pulling out in a hurry -- even if they have had to abandon bases almost overnight -- and said they were moving intelligently. So far there hasn t been one drop of blood shed during this whole period by an American soldier. Nobody was killed, nobody cut their finger, nothing, Trump said. Some of Trump s closest allies in Washington have joined a chorus of outrage at what they see as a betrayal of the Kurds, whose guerrilla units did much of the ground fighting against Islamic State group in Syria, while being supported by US heavy fire power.US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said earlier in Kabul that the US withdrawal would take weeks not days. We have troops in towns in northeast Syria that are located next to the oil fields. The troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal, Esper said.Trump says he sympathizes with Turkey s view that the Syrian Kurds are linked to Kurdish insurgents within its own borders and therefore pose a security threat to the NATO ally.According to the US president, Turkey was long pressing to cross the border into Syria and push back the Kurdish presence from a self-declared security zone -- something critics are likening to ethnic cleansing. Trump says he did not want to leave the small but politically crucial contingent of US special forces and other troops in the middle of a clash. Why should we put our soldiers in the midst of two large groups, hundreds of thousands potentially of people, that are fighting? I don t think so, he said.

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