The Pentagon considers Turkey’s operation in Syria an “impulsive” move that undermines efforts to defeat the Daesh* terror group, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said in a statement, stressing that the United States continues its troop withdrawal from northern Syria.
“Despite the opposition and repeated warnings from the United States and the international community, Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan ordered a unilateral invasion of northern Syria that has resulted in widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to US military forces. This unacceptable incursion has also undermined the successful multinational ‘Defeat ISIS’ mission in Syria, and resulted in the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees,” Esper said on Monday.
The Pentagon chief emphasized that Turkey’s operation puts US forces in the region at risk of being pulled into a broader conflict.
“Therefore, at the President’s direction, the Department of Defence is executing a deliberate withdrawal of US military personnel from northeast Syria,” Esper said in his Monday statement, adding that “Turkey’s unilateral action was unnecessary and impulsive.”
On Sunday, Esper said that the United States was going to pull out an approximate 1,000 troops from the northern part of Syria in order for the US military to not end up trapped between rival armies.
Turkey launched an offensive in northeastern Syria earlier this month. The Turkish operation aims to clear its Syria-facing border area of the Daesh terrorists and the Kurdish militia from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), whom Ankara designates as a single terrorist organization.
“President Erdogan bears full responsibility for its [operation’s] consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and a growing humanitarian crisis. The bilateral relationship between our two countries has also been damaged,” US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stressed in his Monday statement.
Esper promised to discuss the situation with NATO allies and to consider economic and diplomatic pressure on Turkey.
“I will be visiting NATO next week in Brussels, where I plan to press our other NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions,” the Pentagon chief said.
Earlier on Monday, US President Donald Trump said he would soon authorize imposing sanctions on Turkish officials, increasing steel tariffs and freezing trade talks over Turkey’s destabilizing role in northeastern Syria.