Turkey sent to the border with Syria additional equipment

President Donald Trump justified his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, noting Monday that Turkey and Saudi Arabia would instead bear the brunt of the remaining anti-Islamic State effort.

The buildup comes despite Ankara saying it would delay a promised offensive in eastern Syria in the wake of Donald Trump's surprise announcement on Wednesday to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, which it welcomed.

Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said the United States withdrawal, announced abruptly by Trump last week, would open the way "for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin".

US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced he is to replace US Secretary of Defense James Mattis with his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, speeding up the Pentagon chief's planned exit days after he quit, citing key policy differences with the US president.

The two leaders reportedly agree to coordinate to prevent an authority vacuum from developing as the withdrawal process begins.

"During a conversation I had with Mr. Trump - he said 'ISIS, can you clear ISIS from this area?'" Erdogan recalled.

Turkey has carried out two operations in Syria, dubbed "Euphrates Shield" and "Olive Branch", against the YPG and the Islamic State in northern Syria.

Lindsey Graham, one of several top Republicans who panned Trump's move, the official said critics were entitled to their opinions. It said 50 vehicles had crossed into Syria carrying troops and equipment.

"To be an ally is to fight shoulder to shoulder", he said, "paying tribute" to outgoing Secretary Mattis, who he called a "reliable partner".

Erdogan said December 21 that "this is certainly not an open-ended waiting process", referring to his decision to refrain from an attack on the YPG.

Macron said that the troop withdrawal endangers Kurdish fighters, who were instrumental in the U.S-led coalition's fight against ISIS militants.

Many opponents say a quick departure by USA forces would represent a betrayal to Kurdish allies who could be at the mercy of nearby Turkish forces.

The Turkish president also wished a happy new year to the United States president and American people.

Late Sunday, Trump tweeted that Erdogan had assured him that any remaining IS fighters in Syria will be eliminated.

Paris has strongly criticized US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw US forces, arguing that the IS fight is not over.

Darwish dismissed the claims as "untrue", calling them "old accusations" from the rival Syrian groups.

  • Joey Payne