Iraq says US forces withdrawing from Syria have no approval to stay


President Donald Trump ordered the bulk of USA troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists.

Earlier this month, the White House announced it was withdrawing troops deployed in northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkey's offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said USA troops will stay in eastern Syria to protect Kurdish-held oil fields for at least the coming weeks and he was discussing options to keep them there.

A long convoy of United States troops crossed into Iraq from Syria early Monday, accelerating a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria that set the stage for the Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled land.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that the Pentagon was discussing keeping some US troops in parts of northeastern Syria.

Mr. Erdogan is due to hold talks with Mr. Putin on Tuesday.

"While speaking with us Enroute to Afghanistan, Esper also made no mention of new areas being resettled with Kurds or oil".

The U.S. now has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries.

We also learned Monday that USA troop levels in Afghanistan were down by about 2,000 in the past year.

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The US announced on Thursday that it brokered a cease-fire agreement between Turkish troops and the Kurdish-led fighters, though the two sides have accused each other of breaching the truce.

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned in December, said in a recent interview with CBS News that he reached his breaking point with the Trump administration after the President chose to withdraw United States troops from war-torn Syria. There were reports of ongoing fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish groups over the weekend, despite a five-day ceasefire, which ends tomorrow. The timeframe for the transfer to be completed was "weeks, not days", he added.

Thousands of refugees are also flooding across the border into Iraq, doubtful that the ceasefire the USA brokered with Turkey last week will hold, and unsure of what will happen next.

A USA soldier sits atop an armoured vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats next to a base for the US-led worldwide coalition on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on October 6, 2019.

Turkish officials say their campaign is targeting only Kobani's militia, not Syrian Kurds at large. They also said more than 80 Kurdish militants had been captured alive or surrendered to Turkish forces.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union - has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Last week Gaetz spoke on the House floor to explain why the USA should not involve itself with "complex" regional conflicts.

"My hope is that God willing we will achieve the agreement we desire", he said before leaving for Sochi.