Esper confirms Trump ordered larger withdrawal of US forces from Syria

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Esper: Pentagon contract fairly awarded to Microsoft over Amazon MORE confirmed Sunday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election 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During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Esper said the U.S. has withdrawn about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria since an initial smaller withdrawal of troops.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 GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-S.C.) accusing him of abandoning an ally and creating an opening for ISIS forces to return to their former strength.