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U.S. to pull out troops as Turkey pushes deeper into north Syria

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States is poised to withdraw some 1,000 troops from northern Syria, its defense secretary said Sunday, after learning that Turkey planned to extend its military incursion against Kurdish militias further south than originally planned.

Another consideration in the decision, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated, was that Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, was looking to make a deal with Russia to counter the Turkish onslaught.

A Syrian Kurdish politician said the SDF and Syrian government were in talks at a Russian air base on how to halt the attack, and Syrian state media said Syrian soldiers were being sent north to confront the offensive.

Outlining Turkey’s goals, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the incursion would stretch from Ain al-Arab (known as Kobani in Kurdish) in the west to Hassakeh in the east and extend some 30 km into Syrian territory, “in line with the safe zone map which we declared previously.” He told a news conference in Istanbul that the border town of Ras al-Ain was already under Turkish control.

Ankara also said Turkish and allied Syrian rebel forces had seized a highway some 30-35 km into Syrian territory, which would sever a major artery linking the Kurdish-run regions of war-torn Syria’s north.

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