The Latest: Syrian Kurdish leader likens US move to genocide

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on the United States and Syria (all times local):

4 a.m. Tuesday

A leader of Syrian Kurdish forces who have been attacked by Turkey says President Donald Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria was "akin to genocide."

Ilham Ahmed also tells reporters that her message to Trump is "Stop these massacres."

Ahmed was in Washington for meetings Monday. Among those she saw were senators who have sponsored a bipartisan measure sanctioning Turkey until it halts its invasion of northern Syria.

Two of those sponsors are South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen.

They say the U.S. should keep a modest number of American troops in Syria and provide air protection for the Kurds.

Graham said the U.S. should guard Syrian oilfields, and he called for an international force to guard a demilitarized zone between Turkish and Kurdish forces.


12:30 p.m. Monday

President Donald Trump says he still wants to get all U.S. troops out of Syria, but Israel and Jordan have asked him to keep some in Syria.

Just last week, Trump said the roughly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria will go home, leaving about 200 at a base in the southeast of the country. Then officials said the bulk of the troops would shift to Iraq.

Trump's Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, said Monday that he is considering the possibility of leaving an additional contingent in eastern Syria to work with Syrian Kurdish fighters to combat the Islamic State.

Trump also told reporters at the White House Monday that the U.S. would "work something out" with the Kurds in eastern Syria to ensure they have access to income from Syrian oil. He suggested sending an American oil company there to help.


7:15 a.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria to secure oilfields and continue the fight against Islamic State militants.

Esper said on Monday that he had not made a final decision on that option and had not yet presented it to President Donald Trump. Trump has insisted he's bringing home Americans from "endless wars" in the Mideast, but Esper says all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq.

Trump has repeatedly said the Islamic State group has been defeated and has portrayed the withdrawal of American support for Kurdish forces as part of his larger goal of bringing troops home from the Middle East.

Esper emphasized that the proposal to leave a small number of troops in eastern Syria was intended to give the president "maneuver room" and wasn't final.