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

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

The US has begun its operation to pull troops out of Syria, sending naval vessels and back-up forces to the region to assist with the withdrawal.

On December 19, President Trump announced that the USA would pull the estimated 2,000 troops it has stationed in Syria because the Islamic State had been defeated in the country.

"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.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria. Trump made his decision to pull US troops out of Syria after holding a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised that Turkey would play a lead role in bringing stability to the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly blasted national security adviser John Bolton Tuesday for saying the United States withdrawal was contingent upon Turkey's pledge not to attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria once American troops go home.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Masoud Barzani leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the province's capital Arbil during a Middle East tour, on January 9, 2019.

In a rare acknowledgment that French troops were also in Syria, he said they would leave when there is a political solution in the country.

Friday's announcement signalled the first such withdrawal since the president's announcement, Rahman said.

While the US military pullout is now officially underway it has made a slow start.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency", Trump tweeted that day, adding that USA troops would leave in the next 30 days. Turkey views the Kurdish YPG militia, which forms the core of the SDF force, as a national security threat.

US troops have been involved in Syria's war since 2014 when the first elite force arrived in the country to advise Kurdish-led fighters who were involved in battles against the Islamic State group. "No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!".



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