US Begins Pullout From Northeastern Syria Amid Turkish Offensive

Initial pullback is just out of 'safe zone' near border

Announced earlier in the day to a lot of political controversy, the US has begun a military withdrawal from northeastern Syria. Turkey’s President Erdogan said troops started withdrawing immediately following his phone call with President Trump.

Though most of the complaints about this were couched toward the idea of the US leaving Syria, and President Trump certainly continued to give that impression, other officials reported that the pullback would be limited to “just dozens” of troops, and would just withdraw them from the “safe zone” that the US and Turkey initially declared, to an area further south.

Trump has downplayed the planned pullout, saying that the US has paid the Kurds “massive amounts of money,” and that “we can always go back and blast” if he wants to get back into the conflict.

Beyond that, Trump also warned Turkey against doing “anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits,” saying he would “totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey.”

Trump continues to say that he is withdrawing because he was elected to get out of “endless wars.” Despite that, he keeps threatening the idea of going back in or using it as a pretext to move against Turkey.

Turkey’s offensive in the near-term seems to be focused on hitting Syrian Kurdish forces in the far north, and the US policy is to move south and get out of their way.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Turkey is going to escalate this into all of Syrian Kurdish territory, as they’ve oft threatened, or that the US is actually going to leave Syria, as Trump seems to at least want to suggest. Instead this may just mean a brief operation in the far northeast establishing a similar status quo.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of