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(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. special envoy for the Syrian conflict pushed back Tuesday on the charge that, had President Trump not pulled back a small number of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria this month, Turkish forces would not have crossed the border to attack Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James Jeffrey said the personnel withdrawn from the immediate area of the then-imminent Turkish incursion comprised “two outposts of about 12 men each,” who were there essentially to observe any cross-border firing.
Defense - Screen - Anything - Jeffrey - US
“They were not a defense screen or anything else,” said Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and Baghdad who was appointed Syria special representative 13 months ago.
He said the other U.S. troops withdrawn had been based in the Manbij and Kobani areas – to the west of the area where the Turkish offensive was focused.
Jeffrey - Assertion - Sen - Mitt - Romney
Jeffrey disagreed with an assertion by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) that U.S. forces had got “out of the way” at the insistence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“It isn’t that we ‘got out of the way,’ because we were not militarily in the way,” he said.
Jeffrey - US - Turkey - Security - Mechanism
Jeffrey recalled that the U.S. and Turkey had negotiated a security mechanism in the area in August that included joint patrols, but that Erdogan had decided nonetheless to go ahead with a long-planned plan to send forces into northeastern Syria.
He had done so “despite a very carefully-packaged set of incentives and sticks.”
Romney - Jeffrey - Explanation
Romney did not buy Jeffrey’s explanation, however.
“Our president told President Erdogan that we were pulling out our troops, we did so and they attacked within a matter of hours,” he told Jeffrey. “And you say those are unrelated but it would seem to me that there was a relationship.”
Jeffrey - Exchange - Sen - Ben - Cardin
Jeffrey’s subsequent exchange with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) was a combative one.
Cardin asked the envoy whether he...
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