WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is claiming “big success” along the Turkey-Syria border as the United States winds down its military commitment in Syria, where a civil war has raged for eight years.
Trump said in a tweet that he planned a late Wednesday morning statement from the White House where he would discuss the cease-fire between Turkey and American-allied Syrian Kurdish forces. According to Trump, the Kurds are “safe,” and captured Islamic State fighters are “secured” in detention centers.
Trump this month ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, told Trump in a phone call that Turkish forces were readying to invade northeastern Syria. Turkey’s goal was to push back the Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered by Turkey to be terrorists.
Trump said he would “bring our soldiers home” from Syria, but then recalibrated and his administration plans to shift more than 700 to western Iraq. Those troops, however, do not have permission to stay in Iraq permanently.
Iraq’s defense minister, Najah al-Shammari, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the U.S. troops will leave the country within four weeks.
Trump’s tweet comes one day after Russia and Turkey agreed to deploy their forces across nearly the entire Syrian northeastern border.
The deal cements their rising prominence in Syria as Trump seeks to shrink the American footprint in the region and untangle the U.S. involvement in “endless wars.”
U.S. troops in Syria fought for five years alongside Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria and succeeded in bringing down the Islamic State group there, at the cost of thousands of Kurdish fighters’ lives.
Now that territory is set to be handed over to U.S. rivals.
Trump has said he has no problems with Russia and Turkey taking over as power brokers.
The agreement by Russia President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan will transform the region.
“I believe that this agreement will start a new era toward Syria lasting stability and it being cleared of terrorism,” Erdorgan said. “I hope that this agreement is beneficial to our countries and to our brothers in Syria.”