Withdrawing US troops cross into Iraq from Syria

Withdrawing US troops cross into Iraq from Syria

Convoy crosses Tigris River en route to Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region; NYT reports Trump leaning toward keeping contingent of about 200 troops in eastern Syria

US military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on October 20, 2019, after pulling out of their base (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)
US military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on October 20, 2019, after pulling out of their base (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

ARBIL, Iraq — Dozens of US armored vehicles with American soldiers aboard crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan from Syria on Monday.

The withdrawing convoy crossed the Tigris River at the Fishkhabur border post near the Turkish frontier, en route to Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, where there is a US base.

The United States announced the withdrawal of 1,000 American soldiers deployed in northeast Syria on October 13, the fifth day of Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

However, The New York Times reported Monday that US President Donald Trump was leaning toward keeping a contingent of around 200 troops in eastern Syria.

A soldier wearing the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) badge sits on top of a US military vehicle on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on October 20, 2019, after pulling out of their largest base in northern Syria (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

On October 7, US soldiers withdrew from the Turkish border in northern Syria on orders of Trump, opening the way for Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces.

The offensive was paused on Thursday by a fragile ceasefire negotiated by Washington.

On Sunday, an AFP correspondent saw more than a convoy of 70 armored vehicles flying the American flag and escorted by helicopters drive past the Syrian town of Tal Tamr carrying military equipment.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the convoy was evacuating the military base of Sarrin, south of the border town of Kobani, and appeared to be heading east to Hasakeh province.

In the past week, US forces have withdrawn from three other bases in Syria, including from the key town of Manbij and another close to Kobani close to the Turkish border.

The United States currently has 5,200 troops posted in Iraq, deployed as part of a Washington-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

The US presence at several bases across Iraq is controversial, with numerous political groups and pro-Iran Shiite armed groups demanding their expulsion.

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