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Esper confirms Trump ordered larger withdrawal of US forces from Syria

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration pulls out of Open Skies treaty with Russia The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE confirmed Sunday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump 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During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Esper said the U.S. has withdrawn about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria since an initial smaller withdrawal of troops.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 GrahamMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Hackers love a bad transition The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump campaign files for Wis. recount l Secretaries of state fume at Trump allegations l Biden angered over transition delay MORE (R-S.C.) accusing him of abandoning an ally and creating an opening for ISIS forces to return to their former strength.