Akcakale, Turkey: Angry over the US withdrawal from Syria, residents of a Kurdish-dominated city pelted departing American military vehicles with potatoes Monday as they drove through. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that US troops will stay in eastern Turkey to protect Kurdish-held oil fields for at least the coming weeks and that he was discussing options to keep them there.
A video by the Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of armored vehicles driving through the northeastern city of Qamishli.
People in the street hurled potatoes at the vehicles, shouting, “No America,” and “America liar,” in English.
“Like rats, America is running away,” one man shouted in Arabic. Another shouted obscenities and talked of babies in Kurdish-held who have died in the Turkish offensive.
The scene encapsulated the Kurds’ feelings of betrayal and added a new indignity to an American withdrawal that has been rushed and saw several close brushes with Turkish-backed forces.
The Kurds were stunned when President Donald Trump two weeks ago abruptly decided to pull US troops out of border areas, abandoning their allied Kurdish-backed fighters ahead of Turkey’s invasion. After the assault began Oct. 9, Trump ordered a general withdrawal from Syria.
At another location, near the town of Tal Tamr, a group of protesters raised banners to departing US troops late Sunday, according to an Associated Press video.
One man blocked the way of a US van with a poster reading: “Thanks for US people, but Trump betrayed us.”
The Kurdish-led force were the US’s ally in the long and bloody fight that eventually brought down Daesh’s rule over northeast and eastern Syria. Abandoned by US forces, the Kurds agreed to a cease-fire deal brokered by Washington that requires them to leave a section of the border, handing it over to Turkish-backed forces.
Esper said he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual US military force to secure oil fields located in eastern Syria and continue the fight against Daesh militants.
Speaking during a visit to Kabul, he said he has not made a final decision on that option and has not yet presented it to Trump. He underscored the importance of protecting the oil fields from Daesh to ensure the militants don’t profit from them
He said American troops who are working with Kurdish-led forces to guard the oil fields are still in place. The withdrawal could take weeks, he said, and troops around the town of Kobani on the border with Turkey are the first leaving.