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Turkey-backed Syrian fighters prepare to replace withdrawing USA forces

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters prepare to replace withdrawing USA forces

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country would hold off on a military operation against the U.S. -backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, citing a telephone conversation this past week with U.S. President Donald Trump.

In an abrupt policy shift, Trump announced on Wednesday that Washington would withdraw the roughly 2,000 USA troops in Syria, upending a pillar of American policy in the Middle East and alarming United States allies.

The problem is that Turkey also views Kurdish forces allied with both the USA and Israel as terrorists, and experts are convinced that the Turkish military will soon engage the Kurds.

Five days after the call with Erdogan, Trump announced in a tweet that he was removing the troops, claiming: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency".

The official, speaking to reporters during a background briefing, also would not say whether any troops were actually on the way back to the United States, or provide any details on the timetable for their return.

Since 2016, Ankara has carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria.

The unexpected move has been widely criticized by many USA lawmakers who argued the action would undermine America's security and give away the region to Russia, Iran, and Syria.

Turkey's Anadolu news agency said Monday that troop reinforcements had been sent to Turkey's province of Kilis across the border from Manbij, a Kurdish-administered town in northern Syria where U.S. troops are based.

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Turkey also regards the security and the peace of the Turkmens as its own business, the president said. "To be an ally is to fight shoulder to shoulder".

"An ally must be reliable, to coordinate with its other allies", he said.

Turkey has long criticized the US for training and arming the YPG, which it says is linked to domestic terrorists it has fought for more than three decades. In recent weeks Turkey had said the USA was dragging its feet in implementing the deal and had vowed to launch a new offensive against the Kurds.

Mr McGurk said he could not support Mr Trump's Syria decision, saying it "left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered".

USA officials have cautioned against a timeline for a Syria exit but the withdrawal could begin in weeks now that the order to pull-out troops has been signed.

Turkey will not leave Syrian Kurds at the mercy of the terrorist PKK/PYD, as it didn't leave the Arabs to the hands of the Daesh terror group, he said.

Erdogan also stressed Turkey was prepared to provide all kinds of support to the U.S., its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation framework, Turkish presidency said in a statement.

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