The United States is pressing ahead with its withdrawal from northeast Syria and no US ground troops will enforce the safe zone called for in the ceasefire agreement reached with Turkey, the Pentagon said on Friday. US forces will remain in contact with Turkey and Syrian Kurdish fighters that were allies of the US in the fight against the Islamic State group, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
The safe zone between Turkey and the Kurds in northern Syria is supposed to be set up under an agreement announced on Thursday by US Vice President Mike Pence under which Turkey agreed to suspend its military incursion in northern Syria for five days.
“The United States is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from Northeastern Syria as previously announced,” Esper said in a statement.
“No US ground forces will participate in the enforcement of this safe zone.”
However, US forces will carry out aerial reconnaissance of the zone, a senior Pentagon official said. The purpose of this will be to watch over prisons holding Islamic State fighters.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had assured him that he wants the “ceasefire” with Kurdish militants in northern Syria to work. Trump, in a series of tweets, said he had spoken to Erdogan and “he very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. “Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen,” the US president said.
“There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success,” he said.
“The US has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey.”
Trump also said that “some” European countries, which he did not name, “are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Islamic State group) Fighters that came from their nations.”
“This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them,” he said. “Anyway, big progress being made!!!!” Trump also tweeted “DEFEAT TERRORISM!” in all capital letters in response to a tweet by Erdogan saying “Mr. President, many more lives will be saved when we defeat terrorism, which is humanity’s arch enemy.”
Earlier Friday, Erdogan warned that Ankara would resume military operations against Kurdish forces in Syria if they did not withdraw from a “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border.
Turkey has agreed to suspend its offensive for five days in northern Syria while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area, after high-stake talks with US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara.