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Mark Esper: US Prepares to Withdraw Troops From Northern Syria

Jeff Brody
Mark Esper

Defense Secretary and 2019 Wash100 Award winner Mark Esper said the U.S. government is “preparing to evacuate” approximately 1K U.S. service personnel from northern Syria amid Turkey’s impending offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces, CBS News reported Sunday. SDF served as the U.S. allies as part of the campaign against the Islamic State militant organization.

"In the last 24 hours, we learned that [the Turks] likely intend to extend their attack further south than originally planned, and to the west," Esper said. "We also have learned in the last 24 hours that the … SDF are looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks in the north."

Esper told the network’s Face the Nation program that President Donald Trump ordered a “deliberate withdrawal of forces” from the region citing the security of U.S. troops caught between SDF and Turkish forces in Syria.

Trump said Monday that he will issue an executive order that would impose sanctions against Turkey’s government officials and other personnel involved in destabilizing activities in northeast Syria. The president said the U.S. government will cease negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey and increase the steel tariffs by up to 50 percent.

He noted that the EO will authorize additional sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses, ceasefire obstruction, forced repatriation of refugees and security threats in Syria. “The order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States,” Trump added.

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