WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is claiming "big success" along the Turkey-Syria border as the United States winds down its military commitment in Syria, where a civil war has raged for eight years.
Claiming success at the U.S.-brokered effort, Trump said Wednesday, "this was an outcome created by us." The cease-fire required Kurdish forces formerly allied with the U.S. against the Islamic State group to move out of a roughly 20-mile (32-kilometer) zone on the Turkish border.
Trump said, "We've saved the lives of many, many Kurds."
According to the president nearly all U.S. troops will be leaving Syria but some will remain to safeguard oil fields in Syria. Russian forces have since begun joint patrols with Kurdish forces along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Trump says if Turkey breaches the cease-fire the sanctions could be reimposed.
Trump this month ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkey's president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, told Trump in a phone call that Turkish forces were readying to invade northeastern Syria. Turkey's goal was to push back the Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered by Turkey to be terrorists.
Trump said in a tweet that he planned a late Wednesday morning statement from the White House where he would discuss the cease-fire between Turkey and American-allied Syrian Kurdish forces. According to Trump, the Kurds are "safe," and captured Islamic State fighters are "secured" in detention centers.
Trump said he would "bring our soldiers home" from Syria, but then recalibrated and his administration plans to shift more than 700 to western Iraq. Those troops, however, do not have permission to stay in Iraq permanently.
Iraq's defense minister, Najah al-Shammari, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the U.S. troops will leave the country within four weeks.
Trump's tweet comes one day after Russia and Turkey agreed to deploy their forces across nearly the entire Syrian northeastern border.
The deal cements their rising prominence in Syria as Trump seeks to shrink the American footprint in the region and untangle the U.S. involvement in "endless wars."
U.S. troops in Syria fought for five years alongside Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria and succeeded in bringing down the Islamic State group there, at the cost of thousands of Kurdish fighters' lives.
Now that territory is set to be handed over to U.S. rivals.
Trump has said he has no problems with Russia and Turkey taking over as power brokers.
The agreement by Russia President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Erdogan will transform the region.
"I believe that this agreement will start a new era toward Syria lasting stability and it being cleared of terrorism," Erdorgan said. "I hope that this agreement is beneficial to our countries and to our brothers in Syria."