Trump Orders Troop Pullout In Syria
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
We begin this hour with the latest on President Trump's order to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. Here's Defense Secretary Mark Esper announcing the move this morning on CBS's "Face The Nation."
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MARK ESPER: So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.
PFEIFFER: Trump's order comes as Turkish troops are fighting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in the region. That places U.S. forces there potentially at risk of getting caught in the crossfire. In a few minutes, we'll have a reaction from former National Security adviser Susan Rice. But first, we turn to NPR's Daniel Estrin. He and an NPR team are currently in northern Syria.
Daniel, thank you for making time for us. And would you tell us the latest on the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from that area?
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Sure. Well, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said U.S. troops could get caught between two advancing forces. On the one hand, from the north, Turkish troops are advancing. And then from the south, Syrian troops are now reportedly advancing in the opposite direction to face off the Turkish forces. So Esper said this has become an untenable situation for the U.S. He said all U.S. forces in Northern Syria would leave.
And remember, the U.S. troops are in this area because they were working with Kurdish forces to defeat ISIS. All of that has changed in the past week because Trump decided to pull out U.S. forces. That paved the way for Turkey to launch its offensive against Kurdish forces here. And many Kurds we're talking to here say they feel that the U.S. has abandoned them.
PFEIFFER: It's been a chaotic day there. And even before we heard about the announcement of U.S. forces leaving the area, we also heard about alleged ISIS supporters breaking out of a detention camp. What happened there?
ESTRIN: Right. Well, this is a detention camp that holds thousands of women and children. Their husbands, their fathers are alleged ISIS militants. They've been kept behind bars in Northern Syria. We spoke to the camp director, a Syrian Kurdish official. He said that amid all of this chaos, the camp guards feared for their lives, and they simply up and left. And he said that several hundred detainees, including these alleged ISIS families, escaped.
Many of these families are ISIS supporters themselves. And this is part of the scenario that many have been fearing, which is that the U.S. pullout and Turkey's incursion could create chaos, and alleged ISIS-linked detainees could break out of detention camps, and maybe ISIS could regroup here.
PFEIFFER: You've been meeting with Syrians while you're there. How have they been reacting to this? What are they telling you?
ESTRIN: Well, we were driving around just a few hours ago around one town that's quite a ways away from the frontlines. And things seemed pretty calm. There were clothing stores open. We even stumbled upon a baptism in a church. But people are glued to the news. Reportedly, Kurdish forces may be making a deal with the Syrian government, the Syrian regime, to come to this area and to even face off the Turks. And that could mean a change in power here of the Assad regime gaining back even more territory.
PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Northern Syria.
Daniel, thank you.
ESTRIN: Thank you.
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