Contrary to public perception, the White House has insisted that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to withdraw U.S. forces along the Syria-Turkey border isn’t a “green light” for Ankara to massacre Syria Kurds.
A senior Trump administration official told reporters on a call Monday night that 50 to 100 U.S. special forces troops would withdraw from northeastern Syria; however, the United States isn’t entirely withdrawing from the country. The official also emphasized that Trump isn’t endorsing the Turkish plan to invade that part of Syria.
The White House announced the withdrawal on Sunday, following a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, eliciting alarm from the Syrian Kurds, whom Erdoğan considers terrorists.
Trump’s decision was met with quick and harsh bipartisan condemnation, including from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Jewish and pro-Israel groups also reacted unfavorably to the announcement, though Israel for the most part has been quiet.
In the agreement between Turkey and the United States, joint U.S and Turkish ground and air patrols had created a security area that spans more than 78 miles along the Syria-Turkey border.
Erdoğan said on Saturday that the invasion could start “as soon as today or maybe tomorrow.”