All US Troops Now Pulling Out of Syria, Officials Say

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In this Wednesday, April 4, 2018 file photo, a U.S. soldier, left, sits on an armored vehicle behind a sand barrier at a newly installed position near the front line between the U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council and the Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
In this Wednesday, April 4, 2018 file photo, a U.S. soldier, left, sits on an armored vehicle behind a sand barrier at a newly installed position near the front line between the U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council and the Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The U.S. has begun pulling all troops from Syria in the chaos set off by Turkey's invasion, senior administration officials said Monday.

A "deliberate withdrawal from Syria" by the estimated 1,000 U.S. troops, who had previously been supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS, came about because of the refusal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call off the attacks, the official said.

One of the officials said a small contingent of U.S. troops would "continue to stay for the time being" at the Al Tanf Garrison on the Jordanian border. The location is well to the south of the fighting, but the intent is to have all U.S. forces and their equipment pulled from Syria, officials said.

The announced withdrawal appears to signal an end to U.S. efforts to combat ISIS in Syria, while avoiding involvement in that nation's civil war. But the officials said Erdogan was being pressed to reverse course and agree to a ceasefire.

Without giving details, President Donald Trump stated earlier that the troops being pulled out of Syria would remain in the region and continue to work in unspecified ways against a resurgence of ISIS.

About 50 U.S. troops pulled out of northeastern Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion, which began Oct. 9.

Other U.S. troops were withdrawn from a broader swath of northern Syria following an Oct. 11 incident in which Turkish artillery fire came near a U.S. observation post in the border town of Kobane.

The initial withdrawals suggested that the troops were repositioning to the south, but administration officials said the plan now is to have all U.S. troops out of the country while the U.S. seeks to cobble together a ceasefire on an increasingly complicated battlefield.

One of the officials said the U.S. would continue to "pursue a negotiated settlement," and a senior delegation, possibly headed by Vice President Mike Pence, would soon be departing for Ankara.

By his actions, Erdogan had "upturned one of the real success stories" in the region, one of the officials said in a reference to the long campaign by the U.S. with the partnered SDF that eliminated ISIS strongholds in Syria.

The announcement of the U.S. troop withdrawals came on the sixth day of Turkey's military offensive into northeastern Syria aimed at routing the mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic forces and creating a safe zone for the return of many of the estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement that he will meet with NATO allies in Europe next week to press them to take "diplomatic and economic measures" in response to Turkey's operation into Syria.

Esper said Erdogan ordered his military into Syria "despite the opposition and repeated warnings from the United States and the international community."

The invasion "has resulted in widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to U.S. military forces," Esper said.

In addition, "many dangerous ISIS detainees" who were guarded by the SDF have now gone free as Kurdish fighters overseeing the detainment camps moved north to face the Turks, Esper said.

"Erdogan bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and a growing humanitarian crisis," Esper said. "The bilateral relationship between our two countries has also been damaged."

Trump said that "The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate and finance these heinous acts in Syria" that have resulted from the invasion.

"I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path," Trump said in a statement.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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