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Kurdish-led forces say they have pulled out of Syria border town

37 Comments
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tuvan Gumrukcu

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday said they had withdrawn from the border town of Ras al Ain under a U.S.-brokered ceasefire deal, but a spokesman for Turkish-backed Syrian rebels said the withdrawal was not yet complete.

Ras al Ain is one of two towns on the Turkish-Syrian border that have been the main targets of Turkey's offensive to push back Kurdish fighters and create a "safe zone" inside Syria that is more than 30 km (20 miles) deep.

Turkey paused the offensive on Thursday night for five days under a deal agreed between President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Erdogan has warned that Turkey will resume the assault when the deadline expires on Tuesday if the SDF had not pulled back from the safe zone area.

"We don't have any more fighters in the city," SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said, referring to Ras al Ain. His comments came after Ankara said dozens of vehicles had entered and left Ras al Ain, which is largely surrounded by Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, over the weekend.

Rebel spokesman Major Youssef Hamoud told Reuters that the SDF had "not yet completely" pulled out of Ras al Ain.

Turkey launched its offensive after President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. His move was criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State.

However, Trump is now leaning in favor of a new military plan to keep about 200 U.S. troops in eastern Syria near the Iraq border, the New York Times said late on Sunday. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ankara is seeking to set up the zone as a buffer as it regards the YPG, the main component of the SDF, as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey. The YPG has been a close U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State.

The U.S. pullout has also created a vacuum that Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful backer, has looked to fill. Syrian and Russian forces, invited by Kurdish authorities, last week entered the two border cities of Manbij and Kobani vacated by U.S. troops.

Erdogan has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad in the eight-year Syrian conflict, but has said Turkey had no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border if the YPG militia were removed.

TURKEY-RUSSIA TALKS

At a meeting on Tuesday in the Russian city of Sochi, Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the issue of YPG withdrawal from Manbij and Kobani, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

"We believe we can reach an agreement with them to work together in the future, just like we have before," Cavusoglu said on Sunday.

While Erdogan and Putin have close ties on defense and energy, Moscow has called the Turkish offensive into Syria"unacceptable" and said it should be limited.

Although the truce held for the first two days, Turkey's defense ministry said on Sunday one of its soldiers was killed and another wounded after a YPG attack with anti-tank and light arms hit a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Tel Abyad, the other town seized by Turkey in its offensive.

It said Turkish forces had responded to the attack and said the YPG had committed 22 violations of the deal since it begun.

On Friday the Kurdish militia accused Turkey of violating the pause by shelling civilian areas in the northeast. A senior Turkish official denied the accusations.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week", U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the ceasefire was generally holding. "Now we need to make sure that the commitments that were made in that statement are honored," Pompeo said.

Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would resume the offensive if the deal faltered, with Turkey insisting it is Washington's duty to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG.

He also said on Friday that Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts in the "safe zone" it wants to form. Turkish forces had already begun establishing two of the posts on Sunday, a witness in the region said.

WITHDRAWAL PROCESS

Turkey's defence ministry said late on Saturday that a convoy of 39 vehicles entered Ras al Ain, and later took out wounded people. On Sunday, the ministry said about 55 vehicles entered Ras al Ain and a convoy of 86 vehicles departed southwards.

"There are absolutely no impediments to withdrawal in this regard, and the activities of exiting and evacuation from the region are firmly coordinated with U.S. counterparts," the ministry said.

Last week, Trump also ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. 1,000 troops from Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said all of the nearly 1,000 troops withdrawing from northern Syria are expected to move to western Iraq to continue battling Islamic State.

Trump's sudden troop withdrawal and the Turkish attack on the SDF have alarmed Western countries, which fear it could allow thousands of Islamic State fighters detained by the Kurdish-led force to escape and regroup.

Turkey has rejected the concerns, saying its offensive will not hinder the fight against Islamic State or jeopardise the gains of the international community against the jihadists.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
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It was very generous of Donny to broker a ceasefire after having tossed the Kurds under Turkish tanks.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It was very generous of Donny to broker a ceasefire after having tossed the Kurds under Turkish tanks.

Actually, Turkish tanks are basically sitting idle. Most of the fighting against the Kurds is being done by anti-Assad rebels. They are know as the FSA (Free Syria Army) or anti-Assad Syrian National Army.

Up until 2 weeks ago the Western media touted the anti-Assad rebels as heroic freedom fighters, now apparently they're ruthless Islamist invaders.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

*nobody

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Sunday they had withdrawn from the border town of Ras al Ain under a U.S.-brokered ceasefire deal, but a spokesman for Turkish-backed Syrian rebels

Classic propaganda writing. Obamas "vetted rebels" are called "Syrian Democratic Forces", and the pro-Turkish rebels are called, well, rebels.

The fact that the only legitimate force in Syria is the Syrian armee, plus the Russian military who is there upon invitation by the Syrian government, is nowhere to be found.

Food for the echo-chamber...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Rebel spokesman Major Youssef Hamoud told Reuters that the SDF had "not yet completely" pulled out of Ras al Ain.

This guy is the leader of the the so-called "moderate" and "vetted" rebels that Obama armed and financed. They were supposed to form the new government after Hillary promised us Assad would be removed.

They failed of course but at least now we can see the true colors of the Obama's "vetted" rebels as they clobber and murder Kurdish civilians.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Chipstar:

Good thing obody listens to the corrupt, biased western MSM.

Err.... really? So where do you get your talking points from?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Err.... really? So where do you get your talking points from?

Same place you do.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

BB, you keep repeating stuff that is simply wrong.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

BB, you keep repeating stuff that is simply wrong.

Such as?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Trump is a fool but Erdogan is the villain. Let’s not forget who the true source of evil is here. Erdogan and the AKP/MHP, their Islamist / ISIS allies and all who support their ethnic cleansing and fascistic racist policies both inside and outside Turkey. These are truly dangerous people who absent opposition will only grow worse. Be glad you are not within their reach for they lack decency or scruples.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

the true source of evil is here. Erdogan and the AKP/MHP, their Islamist / ISIS allies

Actually agree:

Team 1: Anti-assad Rebels supported by Turkey.

Team 2: Kurds, Russia and the Syrian Army.

The Western media used to tell us that Team 1 was actually the good guys. Now they've done a totally 180 and are telling us that actually Team 2 are the good guys, all because their job is to do whatever it takes to paint Trump as the bad guy.

What a farce.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Who cares what they are called, peace is within grasp, let's hope tgrre's a way out of this even if USA has lost a bit of influence or trust in this region.

Turkey on the other hand can't be trusted. Putin is the outright winner here, but he has spent a lot to get there, including a fighter shot down by Turkey LOL. A bit of a poetic justice tgat tge Russian has been dissing sidewinders as crap when it downed a Russkian fighter. LOL again.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Kurds are communists, no?

Glad we're not helping them anymore.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

The Kurds had to "pull out" because they were "sold out" by Trump.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The Kurds are communists, no?

Glad we're not helping them anymore.

Says who?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Dear Leader of course. And therefore, his Trumpets as well.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The blood is on Trump and his supporters' hands. Now they are bragging about a "ceasefire" deal on an incursion the single-handedly approved after Trump's called with Erdogan, whom Trump buckled and bent over for. Erdogan and Russia got everything they want. The US, of whom the majority was against Trump's actions, are once again now forced to support genocide and will have to deal with terrorism as the ISIS soldiers Turkey frees will plot to hurt them.

Great job, guys!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Team 1: Anti-assad Rebels supported by Turkey.

Team 2: Kurds, Russia and the Syrian Army.

The Western media used to tell us that Team 1 was actually the good guys. Now they've done a totally 180 and are telling us that actually Team 2 are the good guys, all because their job is to do whatever it takes to paint Trump as the bad guy.

What a farce.

Oceana is not and never was at war with Eurasia, Oceana is and always was at war with Eastasia! That's right, that's right now! Don't let those (ahem) Democrat/liberal (Goldstein's agents) fool you good Trumpets.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Says who?

The BBC does:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-20971100

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It is not the US responsibility. If you want to be in Syria have your country send troops there.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The BBC does:

The Kurds are no more commie than Singapore is, LKY dabbled with communism too, and his dynasty is still run like a communist dynastic one party state. I would even say the Kurds are just bobbing up and down in a sea of ideologies looking for support where ever they can.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Kurds had to "pull out" because they were "sold out" by Trump

I would argue that Trump sold out the Kurds and USA.

Syria and its neighbours were considered strategic enough for USA (and the world to enter), all of a sudden Putin gets his wishes in one go. I'd be more interested in what Putin has on Trump than the roles of the Kurds in this conflict. Yes it's good to have a bit of humanity in a discussion, but it's also good to not be myopic about it too.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"This is not a strategic success, but, as Sen. McConnel said, 'a grave strategic mistake' . . . and it is (an act of betrayal)."

Gen. David Petraeus (Ret.),

Former CIA Director

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Gen. David Petraeus (Ret.), 

Former CIA Director

And war-mongering Lockheed stooge who wants nothing more but for America to be entangled in endless foreign wars so his paymasters can continue selling weapons at huge margins all at the expense of the hardworking American taxpayer who simple thinks that US soldiers should be protecting US citizens and US soil.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

But Burning Bush if ISIS is on the loose again, who are we going to turn to to get the job done the next time around? This thing is far from over, regardless of what the Dotard-in-Chief proclaims or tweets about it being a victory. Do you honestly believe Trump when he claims this was a victory and that the Kurdish groups U.S. soldiers fought side by side with are worse than ISIS? Trump really needs to find put some people in place around him who know what they're doing and to let them manage this, but it's too late regarding this particular fiasco. The damage has been done.

Besides, the U.S. wasn't in NE Syria because it loved being and fighting there, but because it was in the interests of America's own national security and the threat posed by ISIS. Look! It's ALIVE AGAIN!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

if ISIS is on the loose again, who are we going to turn to to get the job done the next time around? 

How about the Syrian government.

They kept a lid on ISIS until NATO-backed Turkey forced them out of that area and allowed ISIS to incubate, fester and mature.

ISIS, Al Qaida and their ilk only grow in places where the West attacks the legitimate government and allows lawlessness to run rampant.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Burning Bush

I'm not sure where you're from, but if ISIS were to launch an attack against your home country or city, you'd probably be one of the first ones saying, "Yeah, let's go over to Syria and kick ISIS's ass!"

Only this time you'll be doing it alone because the groups you've betrayed will no longer fight and die for you. Your army will be doing all of the heavy lifting alone and the body count will be much higher than it was this time.

In other words, it's best not to burn your bridges because you might need to cross over them again in the future. Do you follow?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

if ISIS is on the loose again, who are we going to turn to to get the job done the next time around?

"We", aka the American meddlers did not do "the job". The Syrian armee, the Russians, and yes Kurdish groups did. But the Kurds did not fight for Hillary Clinton, they fought for their own survival. Which was threatened by ISIS, and not by Turkey or Syria. Did everybody forget that 15% of Turkeys population is actually Kurdish? That the Kurds have an agreement with the Syrian government about limited self-government? What neither Turkey nor Syria can accept is a unilaterally declared new Kurdish state, run by radicals.

I don´t know what I find more surprising.... the straight out lies by the mainstream media, or that people who obviously never followed the history of the region take the media lies and repeat them literally.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Shimon masada:

I would argue that Trump sold out the Kurds and USA.

So "argue" now means "parrot CNN"?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

But the Kurds did not fight for Hillary Clinton, they fought for their own survival. Which was threatened by ISIS

The Kurds went above and beyond. They not only freed their own lands from ISIS, but they went after ISIS beyond Kurd lands. They could've stopped after their lands were freed, but they kept on fighting (partly because the US wanted them to keep going after ISIS) and suffering casualties but still took the fight all the way to the ISIS capital Raqqa.

That the Kurds have an agreement with the Syrian government about limited self-government?

Not before the ISIS crisis, when the Assad government was pushed to the corner and needed all the help they can get against ISIS. The Assad government was not always friendly to the Kurds. Heck, Assad's grandfather even denied Syrian citizenship to the Syrian Kurds, so the Kurds couldn't even participate into Syrian society.

How about the Syrian government.

They kept a lid on ISIS

Actually, the Syrian forces were initially losing to ISIS. One of the big early setbacks was when the Syrian forces lost their main airbase in central Syria to ISIS. That meant they can no longer control the air, allowing ISIS to move freely, expand, and proliferate in all directions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But WilliB, the Kurds had been living in that area that Turkey is now cleansing for many, many years. True, relations have been rocky between the Turks and the Kurds, but certainly you're not in support of what Trump called The Ultimate Solution? It sounds like something straight out of the mouth of another infamous dictator who ran amok several decades ago. Of course you might say the scale of this operation is much smaller so it's OK, but it's not OK to many of us who support human rights. Trump doesn't appear to give a damn about human rights.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

CNN have no reporters on the ground which is why I never watch it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ABC news had reporters on the ground.

Reporters who then went to YouTube and took a video from a Kentucky gun range because nothing was going on in Syria to support the narrative.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Actually, what's most ironic about this current situation is that Northeast Syria was one of the few stable fronts the US has had in their global fights. Relative to their fronts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and western Africa, et. al., their Northeast Syrian front was quite stable. Hardly anything happens to their US forces there --and there's only a need for a small contingent, just in the hundreds to a thousand-- while the local Kurds are the willing and competent fighters who are keeping the peace in their stead.

And now, the US action trigger has blown up that stability skyhigh back into chaos. Yet those US forces aren't even coming home --they're not even leaving the Middle East-- just moving from Syria to Saudi Arabia. So what did they even trade that stability for?

If they were to leave anyway, the US should had negotiated the terms with all the sides before leaving it up to chaos, when the US still had the position of power in the negotiation table. But now instead, they're trying to negotiate while running to catch up to a runaway table. It's like they're always late. And now, they're planning to bring some of their forces back again to Syria. So why they didn't think of doing all this before plunging the stable front into chaos...............

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually, the Syrian forces were initially losing to ISIS

When I meant the Syrian government kept a lid on ISIS, I meant the 100 or so years that Syria was a stable and peaceful society before Turkey sent over thousands upon thousands of militants to kickstart the Syrian civil war.

Syrian police controlled that area very well until NATO opened up a can of worms with yet another "regime change" op.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

ABC - fake news - no one can deny it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It was very generous of Donny to broker a ceasefire after having tossed the Kurds under Turkish tanks.

Trump did not toss anyone under any Turkish tanks, and it was the right decision to remove the U.S. troops from the areas they were going to be shot at.

Amazing how there weren't any U.S. troops in Syria until Obama came along and decided to try to destabilze Assad which was an abysmal failure and contributed greatly to the awful situation there now.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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