Residents of a heavily Kurdish city in northeast Syria threw potatoes at withdrawing American troops on Monday, underscoring the deep anger over President Trump’s decision to pull most U.S. forces from the region amid a Turkish military offensive.
While Defense Secretary Mark Esper suggested Monday that a small U.S. force may stay behind to guard oil fields in the region, the bulk of the 1,000 American troops are now exiting Syria and heading to Iraq. An American convoy leaving the city of Qamishli was hit with potatoes on Monday while protesters shouted “No America” and “America liar,” the Associated Press reported.
“Like rats, America is running away,” one protester yelled, according to media reports.
Earlier this month, Mr. Trump announced that he would pull U.S. troops from key buffer zones along the Turkey-Syria border. The move paved the way for a Turkish military assault against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a key ally in the U.S. fight against the Islamic State.
Turkey considers elements of the group to be terrorists.
As the Turkish military assault gained steam last week, the U.S. announced it would pull virtually all of its 1,000 troops from northeastern Syria to keep them out of harm’s way. The withdrawal is still ongoing.
Mr. Esper, who is traveling in the Middle East and visited Afghanistan on Monday, said the U.S. may ultimately keep a small residual force in northeast Syria to guard oil fields. The secretary said the administration does not want the Islamic State to gain control of the energy reserves and use them as a revenue source.
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