WATCH

Syrian Kurdish Leader Likens U.S. Move to Genocide as U.S. Soldiers Pelted by Civilians

Angry residents hurl potatoes at vehicles, accusing America of lying as troops move out of northeast Syria amid Turkish incursion

A convoy of U.S. military vehicles arrives near the Iraqi Kurdish town of Bardarash in the  Dohuk governorate after withdrawing from northern Syria on October 21, 2019.
SAFIN HAMED / AFP

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.

Angry over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, residents of a Kurdish-dominated city pelted departing American military vehicles with potatoes Monday as they drove through. 

A video by the Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of armored vehicles driving through the northeastern city of Qamishli. People in the street hurled potatoes at the vehicles, shouting, "No America," and "America liar," in English.

"Like rats, America is running away," one man shouted in Arabic. Another shouted obscenities and talked of babies in Kurdish-held who have died in the Turkish offensive.

The scene encapsulated the Kurds' feelings of betrayal and added a new indignity to an American withdrawal that has been rushed and saw several close brushes with Turkish-backed forces. The Kurds were stunned when President Donald Trump two weeks ago abruptly decided to pull U.S. troops out of border areas, abandoning their allied Kurdish-backed fighters ahead of Turkey's invasion. After the assault began Oct. 9, Trump ordered a general withdrawal from Syria.

At another location, near the town of Tal Tamr, a group of protesters raised banners to departing US troops late Sunday, according to an Associated Press video.

One man blocked the way of a U.S. van with a poster reading: "Thanks for US people, but Trump betrayed us."

The Kurdish-led force were the U.S.'s ally in the long and bloody fight that eventually brought down the Islamic State group's rule over northeast and eastern Syria. Abandoned by U.S. forces, the Kurds agreed to a cease-fire deal brokered by Washington that requires them to leave a section of the border, handing it over to Turkish-backed forces.

Esper said he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force to secure oil fields located in eastern Syria and continue the fight against Islamic State militants.

Speaking during a visit to Kabul, he said he has not made a final decision on that option and has not yet presented it to Trump. He underscored the importance of protecting the oil fields from ISIS to ensure the militants don't profit from them

He said American troops who are working with Kurdish-led forces to guard the oil fields are still in place. The withdrawal could take weeks, he said, and troops around the town of Kobani on the border with Turkey are the first leaving.