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State Dept. pulls some personnel from northern Syria amid Turkish onslaught

State Dept. pulls some personnel from northern Syria amid Turkish onslaught
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The U.S. has begun pulling some U.S. diplomats from northern Syria amid a Turkish military offensive there, a State Department official confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

The official said personnel on the department’s Syria Transition Assistance Response Team had moved out of Syria on Sunday to other offices in the region “where they will continue to monitor programming remotely.”

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“The situation on the ground is very fluid and at this time, our stabilization implementing partners are reviewing their security postures and adjusting or suspending their activities as they deem appropriate,” the official said.

The department’s Syria Transition Assistance Response Team operates in Syria and Turkey and is responsible for implementing U.S. assistance efforts to Syrians.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Monday that the U.S. government had begun evacuating a small number of diplomats from the region amid the Turkish onslaught.

According to the Journal, the Trump administration flew roughly 10 State Department officials out of northern Syria on Sunday. The U.S. is also said to have begun relocating troops from the region on Monday.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE announced last week that he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria amid a planned Turkish onslaught. The move has inspired broad criticism, with some accusing the president of abandoning Kurdish allies that helped the U.S. in the fight against ISIS in the region. Turkey views the Kurds as a terrorist organization and has long sought to disrupt U.S. support for the Kurds.

Trump has defended his decision, redoubling his pledge to withdraw the United States from “endless wars.” Trump has also vowed to impose sanctions on Turkey if it crosses a line, without explicitly stating what actions would trigger sanctions.

On Monday, Trump announced that he would soon impose sanctions against Turkey in retaliation for its incursion into Syria. He also confirmed in the statement that he was withdrawing all troops from the northeastern part of the country, and redeploying them to other parts of thew region to monitor ISIS.

A U.S. military official on Monday echoed the president's statement, telling The Hill that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition "is re-positioning troops from northeast Syria to other locations in the region. This is a deliberate, safe, and orderly withdrawal of forces.  We are moving troops from small outpost to larger outpost and all personnel and military equipment will depart northeast Syria. We will keep a residual force at At Tanf Garrison to continue to fight ISIS remnants."

Laura Kelly contributed.