The US 'has started to withdraw forces from Syria'

14 January, 2019, 04:58 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

A US defense official says no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out.

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

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

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

Kurdish officials, meanwhile, have demanded clarifications from the USA over its intentions.

Democratic Party legislator Adam Schiff on Friday lashed out at the Donald Trump administration for its decision to pull the United States out of Syria.

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the US -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria. Turkish military has previously entered Syria in an apparent effort to drive Kurdish forces away from Turkey's borders. Troops work mostly out of small camps in remote parts of the country's northeast. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the US pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

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A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the US beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision". US Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned soon after the announcement. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a "betrayal of our Kurdish partners".

A former military official said U.S. military planners first received their notice about the Syria withdrawal from media reports and the president's comments in December rather than an official military order to leave, forcing them to immediately begin planning. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cdr.

"OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve] has an approved framework for the withdrawal of forces from Syria, and is now engaged in executing that withdrawal", Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said earlier this week.

But the Baghdad-based official did not give details and it is unclear how many vehicles or troop units had been withdrawn. These include troops to provide additional security.

She charged that the US appeared to be "looking for a reason to stay" in Syria.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow Friday, she said it appears to Moscow that the U.S.

The removal of the equipment in recent days was first reported by CNN, which quoted an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation as saying it signaled the beginning of U.S. withdrawal from the Middle Eastern country. He said it would take 35,000 to 40,000 local forces in northeastern Syria to maintain security, but only about 20 percent had been trained.

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Turkey welcomed Trump's surprise order to the Pentagon, while other U.S. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies said they received no notice.

On a visit to Turkish troops stationed near the Syrian border Friday, Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, reiterated that Ankara is "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and said military preparations were ongoing.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug", the minister said in southern Sanliurfa province.

It's complicated: On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that United States ground troops and naval vessels are moving toward Syria to assist with the withdrawal, defying Bolton.

Since Trump's announcement, senior members of his administration including Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have frustrated Turkey by setting more specific conditions on what Trump initially suggested would be a quick withdrawal.

"Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over", Pompeo said. However, the Kurds reached out to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for help. American and Russian warplanes have shared the skies over Syria, carrying out separate- and in some cases, conflicting - missions against the IS group and other targets.

The Defense Department wants to show progress to Trump and the public that they are following through on the President's orders to withdraw troops even though Bolton has indicated troops could remain for some time.

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