The White House has said Turkey will soon invade northern Syria, renewing fears of a slaughter of Kurdish fighters allied with the US in a years-long campaign against Islamic State (IS).
- The White House said US forces «will no longer be in the immediate area», though it’s not clear if all troops are being withdrawn
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to invade northern Syria for months
- Fears persist for the safety of Kurdish fighters if the US was to leave Syria, as Donald Trump proposed last year
For months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to launch a military assault on the Kurdish forces in northern Syria, many of whom his Government considers terrorists.
The Kurdish forces bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against IS militants, and Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack would send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.
US troops «will not support or be involved in the operation» and «will no longer be in the immediate area,» in northern Syria, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an unusual late-Sunday (local time) statement that was silent on the fate of the Kurds.
It was not clear whether that meant the US would be withdrawing its 1,000 or so troops completely from northern Syria.
The announcement came after a call between President Donald Trump and Mr Erdogan, the White House said.
The announcement prompted the resignation in protest of then-defence secretary Jim Mattis, and a coordinated effort by then-national security adviser John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds.
The White House statement on Sunday said Turkey would take custody of foreign fighters captured in the US-led campaign against IS, who have been held by the Kurdish forces supported by the US.
Mr Trump and ambassador James Jeffrey, the State Department envoy to the international coalition fighting IS, have said there were about 2,500 foreign fighters captured in the fight against IS that the US wants Europe to take.
Mr Trump has repeatedly demanded European countries, particularly France and Germany, take back their citizens who joined the militant organisation.