U.S. pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

11 January, 2019, 16:56 | Author: Carlos George
  • Turkey Stands By Deal To Buy Russian Missiles, Attack Kurds In Syria

The US-led coalition against Islamic State has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria, its spokesman said on Friday, affirming the start of a pullout that has been clouded by mixed messages from US officials.

President Donald Trump's announcement last month that he had chose to withdraw 2,000 USA troops stunned allies that have joined Washington in the battle against Islamic State in Syria.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", the Baghdad-based official said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles and some trucks pulled out from the north-eastern town of Rmeilan on Thursday night and crossed the border into Iraq.

The U.S. -led coalition in Syria is beginning to remove troops from Syria.

On Sunday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slow-down in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Middle East this week to reassure allies of Washington's commitment to regional security, said on Thursday the withdrawal would not be scuppered despite the Turkish threats.

Even as administration officials continue to insist the U.S. will leave Syria, they are indicating - in part by adding conditions for withdrawal without timelines - that the American presence will continue far longer than the President's initial pledge of departure "now" or even by the 120-day deadline the White House offered later. But the peace and stability of areas US forces withdraw from "must be guaranteed", she added.

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Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has reiterated during his meeting with Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Turkey's call on the US to promptly withdraw the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Syrian city of Manbij, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

A USA official told ABC News that in recent days military equipment has been moved out of Syria into Iraq.

"President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria".

Turkey views the US -backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have partnered with the United States, and on the other the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian government sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory.

The U.S. announcement that Mr. Trump's ordered withdrawal is underway might be enough to convince Turkey to hold fire against America's Kurdish battleground allies, for a while, but Erdogan still wants to go after them, and he could make good on his threats - even on a small scale - at any time.

Over the past years, the relations between Turkey and the United States have been hampered by Ankara's concerns over U.S. support for the YPG, viewed by the Turkish authorities as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, listed as a terrorist organisation in the country.

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