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Esper confirms Trump ordered larger withdrawal of US forces from Syria

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Former Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute CORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report MORE confirmed Sunday that President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE has ordered a larger withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria than was previously indicated.

During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Esper said the U.S. has withdrawn about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria since an initial smaller withdrawal of troops.

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Trump made the decision to increase the withdrawal amid reports that Turkey will expand its offensive “further south than originally planned and to the west,” Esper told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

Esper also referenced reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish group allied with the U.S. in the battle against ISIS, are seeking an agreement with the Syrian and Russian governments.

“And so we find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies, and it's a very untenable situation,” Esper told Brennan.

“So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria,” he said.

Pressed by Brennan on whether Turkish forces would be advancing if U.S. forces remained, Esper said that in talks with other officials, “it became very clear to me that the Turks were fully committed to conducting this incursion” regardless of the U.S. presence.

Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and to turn over operations to Turkey has been met with sharp bipartisan criticism, with staunch Trump backers such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill MORE (R-S.C.) accusing him of abandoning an ally and creating an opening for ISIS forces to return to their former strength.