US Senator in Syria: 'Terrible' if American troops leave
A senior Republican US lawmaker has paid a surprise visit to the northern Syrian town of Manbij and told Syrian allies there that it's important for American troops to remain in the area.
Lindsey Graham told a group of local officials in a video broadcast by the Manbij-based Furat FM TV on Monday that it would "be terrible" if Americans leave.
Graham vowed to tell US President Donald Trump that it's "important that we stay here to help you.”
The visit came after a recent Turkish-American deal eased tensions between the two NATO allies over Manbij, which is administered by US-backed Kurdish-led forces Ankara considers terrorists.
Under the deal, which has unnerved Washington's Syria allies, the Kurdish militia now in the town would withdraw from Manbij.
But President Donald Trump has said he wants US troops to return home.
In June, Syria’s foreign ministry condemned foreign military presence in the city.
”Syria strongly condemns and absolutely rejects the incursion of Turkish and American forces into the area of Manbij city," said a foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SANA.
The source condemned the move as part of "the continued Turkish and American aggression on the sovereignty, security and unity of the lands of the Syrian Arab Republic".
Turkey has backed rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but has also supported operations against the YPG in the north.
After ousting the Kurdish force from the Afrin region west of Manbij, Ankara escalated its threats against Manbij, raising the spectre of a clash between it and its NATO ally, the United States.
Diplomatic efforts between the United States and Turkey led to a "roadmap" earlier this month between both sides on the future of Manbij.
Earlier this month, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem criticised the roadmap, saying "neither the United States nor Turkey has the right to negotiate over a Syrian city".
On Tuesday, Syria's foreign ministry demanded the international community condemn the United States and Turkey and pledged once more to retake the entirety of the country.
Much of Syria's north is controlled by the YPG or the alliance that it heads, and the US-led coalition fighting jihadists operates several bases there.
US support for the YPG has strained relations with Turkey, which fears the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region on its southern border.