U.S. pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable
U.S. pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable
US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable
14 January, 2019, 01:27
The U.S. -led military coalition in Syria started the process of withdrawing troops from the embattled region, a U.S. military official said Friday.
President Donald Trump announced last month the decision to withdraw 2,000 USA troops who have deployed to Syria in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia in the fight against Islamic State.
Earlier this week, however, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States would expect guarantees that the Kurds would be protected after American troops leave the area.
"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hasakeh province", Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, said.
Some 150 soldiers and 10 armored vehicles, along with some trucks and heavy equipment, left the town and crossed the Iraqi border, he said.
Trump's decision to withdraw all of the 2,000 United States troops from the war-torn country prompted shockwaves among USA senior officials and U.S. allies in December.
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Several weeks later, national security adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal will have a longer timeline, and will not be undertaken until Kurdish fighters are protected and ISIS is defeated in the war-torn country.
The start of the drawdown coincided with a Middle East tour by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who insisted in Cairo on Thursday that the withdrawal would go ahead despite widespread criticism.
The distinctive feature of the US military campaign in Syria is its partnership with the Kurds and Arabs who were willing to act as American proxies by fighting the Islamic State group without USA troops having to take the lead combat role.
"We also know that those who aren't terrorists, those who were fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", Pompeo said.
In an interview on Sunday, Pompeo described the removal as a "tactical change" and reasserted US efforts remain the same.
"It's clear that the administration has no real plan", said Sen.
"The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to Pompeo about the latest developments in Syria", said a brief statement from Turkey's foreign ministry. Syria's assistance has allowed 400 fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to withdraw from the area. Once the troops are gone, the USA will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the IS group a lasting defeat.
His announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was criticised even within his own camp and is already having major repercussions on the almost eight-year-old conflict.
The Kurdish groups that control the north have turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.
Israeli officials have expressed worries that the pullout could give Iran greater leeway to entrench itself militarily in Syria.
America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said during a speech in Egypt.
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