US troops retreat from Syrian town under attack; official says ‘situation deteriorating rapidly’
BEIRUT – A U.S. official says a “small group” of American troops are withdrawing from a base in northern Syria as Turkish forces advance.
Sunday’s pullout from the base at the town of Ein Issa is the second retreat for U.S. troops since a fast-moving Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The troops had evacuated border positions before the Turkish forces crossed into Syria Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump said it was to remove American forces from harm’s way. But since the offensive began, an explosion occurred near a U.S.-led coalition base in the western town of Kobane, prompting the troops to pullout.
Ein Issa an administrative hub for the Syrian Kurdish-led forces allied with the U.S., and home to a U.S. base.
The official said American troops still have a presence in other bases nearby.
But a U.S. official told the Associated Press on Sunday that the situation in northeast Syria is “deteriorating rapidly” as Turkey-backed forces advance and could isolate American forces on the ground.
The official said there is an increasing the risk of a confrontation between Turkey-backed and U.S. forces in the area. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
President Donald Trump has said U.S. troops in northern Syria would pull back ahead of a Turkish offensive, now in its fifth day, to take the force out of harm’s way.
Since Saturday, Turkey-backed fighters have moved with Turkish airstrikes toward the town of Ain Eissa, an administrative town for the Kurdish-led forces and where a major U.S. base is located.
The official said U.S. forces and their Kurdish allies no longer control ground lines of communication and have no control over Turkish aircraft overhead.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with three Arabic television stations that was released Sunday that “all foreign nations” should withdraw their troops unless they have been asked by the Syrian government to stay there.
He said that Russia, which has a significant military presence there as well as an air and a naval bases, would also leave if President Bashar Assad asks it to.
Putin, a staunch backer of Assad, stopped short of condemning Turkey for sending its troops across the border into northeastern Syria earlier this week, but said that other nations should respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.