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Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Listen first to a little bit from Secretary of Defense Mark Asper talking about the president's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and it has the president's move had moved have been framed by the administration as a decision to get home and out of quote endless wars But secretary experts said that troops from Syria are being relocated to western Iraq the current game plan is for those forces to reposition in western Iraq and then to to missions one is to help defend Iraq and to is to perform a counter isis mission as we sort through the steps that's the secretary of Defense Mark Esperer well joining us now from Washington is Laura Seligman Pentagon correspondent for Foreign Policy Laura Welcome to the show hi thanks for having me so first of all tell us what more we know about these US troops that have been reported as a crossing the border from Syria into Iraq. What's actually going on so what's going on right now is that the US is pretty much making hasty withdrawal from Syria had about one thousand troops in northern Syria left a couple of weeks ago and after the president's decision to move troops from the border which essentially green lighted the Turkish invasion we've sped up or withdrawal so we have I believe there's the US troops are consolidating on in two two points in northern Syria one in the east and one in the West in the east they are now moving out by land by convoy and perhaps possibly helicopter to western Iraq and then over in the West Orleans area near Kabbani they're moving out by airlift so this is serve the end of almost the end of US presence in northern Syria although there was news last night that broke that the president is considering a plan which I believe with presented by Lindsey Graham Senator Lindsey Graham to leave a couple hundred maybe two hundred three hundred perhaps in northern Syria primarily to guard at the oilfields which are currently under Kurdish control from getting into president Syrian President Bashar Assad hands and then they would also have a counter isis mission though it's not clear to me what do you hundred troops can do against both Isis and Assad army okay well so let's see then you mentioned Senator Lindsey Graham let's listen to what he said yesterday on Fox News because of course for the past couple of weeks Senator Graham has it's been very vocally critical of president trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria but here's what he said yesterday on Fox News as I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have alluded us for years if we play our cards right so Laura I mean do we know what more grim is talking about why his sudden change of heart and that we can all of a sudden player cards right I think he's probably trying to ACA fine line between what the president wants which is obviously to get US troops home get them out of Syria I get them out of the Middle East and then securing US trust in Syria so we're actually leaving even before this latest plan we were we had been leaving a couple hundred maybe a hundred fifty troops in southern Syria at a small outpost cold Altaf which sort of acting as a buffer for Iran's presence interior it's a it's a very small garrison that's on the border with Jordan where we have the very small base of troops so that was always sort of in the cards and now we have a president trump making another kind of reversal designed to leave a couple of hundred troops in northern Syria. I think that what Lindsey Graham is trying to do is trying to on the one hand we the president and allow him to fulfill his campaign promises while on the other hand keeping residual force in Syria which is really critical to having a stable northern Syria. I mean the Kurds that are there are already civilians are dying for two hundred thousand I believe civilians have been displaced and if this security zone agreement with a Turkey holds it could be more and more people are displaced that area and you have so many interests players there you have Turkey coming in but you also have the Syrian army you also have the the therion rebels the free Syrian army and other Turkish back forces that have been wreaking havoc so it's a chaotic region right now and the presence of U. S. forces are going to be critical to state well I think it well so you mentioned that this cease fire that was brokered by the US last week I mean just let's listen to A moment to former ambassador William Burns who served as ambassador to Russia and as the US Deputy Secretary of state under the Obama Administration he was on CBS face the nation yesterday an he was critical of the trump administration's moves in the past couple of weeks saying that the administration's policy could they long lasting in the region I mean I think there was a smart way and a dumb way to deal with what was a very complicated situation which we had modest leverage in northeast Syria we chose the dunaway and one impulsive presidential phone call we in a sense gave away our leverage and then in a pretty hasty negotiated ceasefire we through the curve under the bus it's former ambassador William Burns on CBS's face the nation yesterday Laura so things seem to be moving so quickly that I just wonder if he might just help walk through whether or not the ceasefire actually was a cease-fire so as of Friday when she star was agreed it sir it was not a ceasefire there were reports all Friday and over the weekend that the Turkish back forces continued shelling the border city of Russia I and and in fact circled the city and would not let medical convoys come in which we're trying to come in and evacuate wounded civilians and I've been in touch with the Kurdish Red Crescent which is one of the only I think medical convoys medical humanitarian groups that is still on the ground there it's just simply too dangerous for most international groups I've been in touch with them and they we're trying to get in all weekend and they told me that many people in fact died due to loss of blood and how am I getting the help that they needed I I'm told that just in yesterday I believe there was another group an American group that was able to get in and evacuate some of the civilians there but in general it's just a horrible nations I think in the last twenty four hours fighting has ceased a little bit although there are still reports of some fighting there is not as much shelling or bombing So I I I have hope right now that the ceasefire is is going to hold and that will allow some time for the Kurdish forces away PG militia to pull back doc which is there they have agreed to do under the ceasefire agreement but but I am still very concerned about all the civilians that have been caught up in this there were reports faces and Torsos these are children and it looks like the Turkish back proxies are are using white phosphorus and potentially other chemicals against the billion so these war crimes are being committed atrocities are happening and it's just an awful situation chemical weapons attacks you're saying on on civilians and children technically white phosphorus is not accountable weapon there's a lot of legalities in that term in fact it's it's not banned in military use but it is a war crime if you said against civilians so lots of technicalities there but if if you're a person who has been burned with white phosphorus I think that the technicalities don't really matter and so then I mean you talked about you talked about the the Syrian forces the Kurdish forces I mean where is there what group if any is ostensibly protecting the civilians as you said some four hundred thousand being or having already been displaced so so recently partnered with the United States to defeat Isis this group it it's very complicated lots of webs of interconnections in this region but but this abyss primarily led by the way PG militia which has links to the PKK which is a terrorist organisation in Turkey that has been waging insurgency in Turkey for the last couple decades so it's it's certainly fair for Turkey TC the PK as a terrorist threat and so that their view of the white PG AF but the the reality on the ground is that the SDS the Syrian why PG the Syrian militia has not weighed aged any attacks on Turkey from Syria in fact what they've been doing is protecting civilians protecting US forces frankly in Syria we've lost I think four. US soldiers in total in the last since two thousand fourteen in Syria compare that to Afghanistan where blue on green attacks are common and the the SDS has been really good ally in the region so it's complicated but the SPF as as they keep saying they are not terrorists and I think they would they would object to that to that appearance we see but I've seen from your reporting Laura that the president end of the Syrian Democratic Council made an emergency trip to Washington very recently to meet with US officials