Donald Trump meets with Recep Erdogan at G20 summit in Osaka
Donald Trump meets with Recep Erdogan at G20 summit in Osaka REUTERS

The White House announced late Sunday night that the US will pull back its forces from parts of northern Syria, opening the door for a major operation by the Turkish military in Syrian territory.

According to a statement by White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, President Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, over the phone Sunday to discuss Turkey’s impending invasion of northern Syria.

“President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.”

Grisham said that US forces would be withdrawn from the area, but did not specify whether this signaled a large-scale pullout of American forces from Syria, or merely a repositioning in the war-torn country to avoid entanglements with Turkish forces.

“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

“The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused. The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States.”

The move has sparked fears among local Kurdish militias, who Turkey’s President Erdogan has in the past accused of being “terrorists”.

In her statement, Grisham did not discuss the fate of Kurdish forces during Turkey’s operation in northern Syria.