Pentagon insists it was consulted ahead of Syria move

Pentagon insists it was consulted ahead of Syria move
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The Pentagon on Tuesday asserted that top defense officials were consulted prior to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE's surprise and widely criticized announcement that U.S. troops would leave northeast Syria ahead of a Turkish offensive in the area.

"Despite continued misreporting to the contrary, [Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Overnight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon MORE] and [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley] were consulted over the last several days by the President regarding the situation and efforts to protect U.S. forces in northern Syria in the face of military action by Turkey," chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. 


Reports emerged Monday that top military officials were blindsided by Trump's decision to move U.S. troops in northeast Syria out of the way of a long-threatened Turkish incursion against Syrian Kurdish forces, a group that has worked with Washington in defeating ISIS fighters in the country. Ankara considers the Kurds terrorists connected an insurgency inside Turkey.

The United States had been working with Turkey to set up a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border in order to assuage Turkish concerns about the Kurdish forces. The U.S. military was touting that effort as recently as Saturday.

In staying in the area, U.S. troops had also effectively been acting as a shield for the Kurds against a Turkish strike. 

Hoffman said the Defense Department's position "has been and remains that establishing a safe zone in northern Syria is the best path forward to maintaining stability."

He adds that the military has "made no changes to our force presence in Syria at this time," and that U.S. troops were moved "out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety."

A senior administration official also told reporters on Monday that Trump was not giving Turkey a “green light” to invade Syria, and that, of the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops in the country, about 50 to 100 special operators will be moved to other bases. 

Trump, meanwhile, has defended his decision by saying that it is time to end U.S. involvement in "ridiculous Endless Wars,” even as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including many of Trump’s typical Republican allies, have criticized the move as abandoning the Kurds to be attacked by Turkey.

Following Trump's announcement, Turkey on Monday evening bombed the Syrian-Iraqi border in anticipation of an offensive.

The administration is set to give congressional staffers a “top secret” briefing on the Syria announcement later Tuesday afternoon.