The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has withdrawn from a 75-mile area between the border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad in compliance with a U.S.-brokered ceasefire, and will move back 19 miles from the Syria-Turkey border, a senior SDF official told the Associated Press on Monday.
SDF official Redur Khalil added however that while the Kurds were upholding their end of the ceasefire, the United States was failing to hold Turkey to its end, saying Turkey continues to conduct shellings and military operations.
Turkey halted its offensive in northern Syria on Thursday for five days under a deal agreed between Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The aim of the ceasefire is to give Kurdish forces time to withdraw from the border area Turkey is seeking to establish as a “safe zone.”
While Erdoğan has said Turkey will resume its assault “with determination” when the deadline expires on Tuesday if all Kurdish forces, including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, have not withdrawn, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a Turkish drone hit a vehicle on Monday carrying four SDF fighters, some three kilometers from Ain Issa, south of Tal Abyad.
On Sunday, a Turkish soldier was reported killed and another wounded during an attack by the YPG militia in Tal Abyad. The Turkish defense ministry said the attack was carried out against Turkish soldiers conducting a reconnaissance and surveillance mission, and that Turkey retaliated but remains committed to the truce.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that all of the nearly 1,000 troops withdrawing from northern Syria will be stationed in western Iraq, where they will “help defend Iraq” and continue fighting the Islamic State.
There are currently more than 5,000 American troops based in Iraq.
Video circulated on social media showed residents of the city of Qamishli throwing potatoes at troops leaving the area, yelling “America liar” and “No America,” expressing their sense of betrayal at the U.S. withdrawal.
Signs at protests included “Thanks for U.S. people but Trump betrayed us,” and “To the U.S. army who are leaving northeast Syria: Tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks and we did nothing to protect them.”
Some U.S. special forces soldiers that have fought alongside the Kurds in recent years have reportedly expressed remorse at the withdrawal.
According to reports, at least 114 civilians have been killed and 300,000 displaced since Turkey began its offensive on Oct. 9.
Erdoğan is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday, coinciding with the end of the five-day ceasefire.