Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

12 January, 2019, 15:02 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • PKK attack Turkish group in Germany

The U.S. military said Friday it has begun withdrawing troops from Syria, initiating a drawdown that has blindsided allies and sparked a scramble for control of the areas that American troops will leave.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", the statement added.

The US withdrawal from Syria has officially begun, a military official has said.

Earlier Friday, a Pentagon official who asked not to be identified said that the military has begun to move American equipment out of the country. The spokesman added that, to protect security, the coalition would not provide details on troop movements.

Russian Federation is mediating talks between the Syrian government and the Kurds to ensure a smooth transition when USA troops leave the region. US officials said top coalition commanders have approved drawdown plans based on conditions on the ground and not a specific timetable.

The news follows weeks of confusion over Donald Trump's plans for USA withdrawal from the country.

Witnesses on the ground told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights they saw 10 armored vehicles, and other equipment, roll out from a USA base in Rmeilan in Hassakeh province and head toward neighboring Iraq. Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them out, declaring in a tweet the defeat of IS, sent shockwaves across the region and a flurry of criticism from some of his generals and national security advisers, and led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Minister James Mattis and the top U.S. envoy to the anti-IS coalition. Brett McGurk, the president's special envoy for the U.S. coalition in Syria, and Dana White, a Defence Department spokeswoman, also resigned. The anti-ISIS coalition has sought to quell violence between the Kurds and Turkish forces, which has at times drawn the SDF away from fighting ISIS militants.

"We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again", Bolton said when meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Bolton's comments unacceptable and a "grave mistake".

Though Trump has said he wants a withdrawal to be coordinated, gradual and "prudent", observers have stressed that his announcement was having the same impact as a withdrawal itself.

Trump's national security advisor John Bolton on Sunday announced conditions for a withdrawal that appeared to delay it indefinitely. Other U.S. officials later made clear that the pullout did not yet include troops.

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USA airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

"We remain committed to the complete dismantling of ISIS - the ISIS threat - and the ongoing fight against radical Islamism", he said.

Pompeo has also sought to reassure the Kurds that they will be safe after US troops withdraw from the country, The Associated Press reported.

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