U.S. troops have started to pull out of Syria and cross into Iraq, Reuters reported.
According to the news service, over 100 vehicles crossed into Iraq from northeastern Syria where Turkey agreed to ceasefire for five days following a deal with the States.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that troops will be relocated to western Iraq, where they will continue to conduct operations to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State.
President Trump had said, however, that he was bringing the U.S. troops home after withdrawing them from northern Syria. After Trump’s announcement, Turkey quickly launched a military operation in the area targeting Syrian Kurds, who aided the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State, according to The Hill.
Esper said that was one option and no decision had been made “with regard to numbers or anything like that.” The Pentagon’s job was to look at different options, he added.
“We presently have troops in a couple of cities that (are)located right near that area,” the Pentagon chief said. “The purpose is to deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS (Islamic State) and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.”
Turkey is seeking to set up a “safe zone” as a buffer against the YPG militia, the main component of the SDF. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.
Erdogan has said Ankara will resume its assault in Syria when the deadline expires on Tuesday if the SDF has not pulled back from its proposed zone, which spans much of the border.
“We will take up this process with Mr Putin and after that we will take the necessary steps” in northeastern Syria, Erdogan told a forum in Istanbul hosted by broadcaster TRT World on Monday, without elaborating.
Erdogan has also said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts in the “safe zone”, prompting criticism from Iran.