United States troops begin withdrawing from Syria

Geraldine Edwards
January 12, 2019

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", Ryan said.

The U.K. -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely tracks developments in the civil war, said the withdrawal began on Thursday, with a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks moving out of Rmeilan in Syria and relocating to Iraq.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the USA withdrawal, drawing a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments "a serious mistake".

The official said the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls the start of a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where some 2,000 troops have been working with a coalition for Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

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Residents near border-crossing points typically used by US forces moving in and out of Syria from Iraq told Reuters they had seen no obvious or large-scale movements following Friday's announcement.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based monitoring organisation, said some U.S. forces withdrew from the Rmelan military base on Thursday.

"American troops aren't welcome here, and although their presence may complicate matters for us, we are ready to forcefully recover every inch of Syria, even if Trump keep USA soldiers on our soil". It also led to major criticism that the USA was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.

"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected", Pompeo said during his tour of the Middle East this week, according to the AP.

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Speaking to Newsweek, a senior Defense Department source pinpointed one area of current withdrawal activity, at a strategic airstrip on Syria's northeastern border with Iraq. On Dec. 23, he said there would be a "slow & highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area".

There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles or whether any troop units had withdrawn. The first of those criteria is unmet, but feasible, as the terror group now holds only a small patch of land in Syria. Stalling the process were fears about Turkey invading territory held by Kurdish allies to the USA, and leaving a power vacuum in the war-torn country.

Meanwhile, Turkey's defense minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday that his country is preparing for an "intense" attack across the Euphrates in Syria, as soon as the Americans withdraw.

And numerous Trump administration's decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

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"If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey's NTV television on Thursday.

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