U.S. official says troop withdrawal from Syria has started


Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said the process of removing troops for the country had started.

After days of conflicting statements about a timeline for U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out American troops from Syria, a U.S. military official said Friday that the withdrawal process has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.

"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hassakeh province", said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based war monitor, which relies on reports from activists on the ground.

It said a convoy of ten armoured vehicles and some trucks had pulled out of Rmeilan, in Syria's north west, into Iraq.

Other analysts argued that it would be wrong for Trump to abandon USA allies the Kurds, who have been instrumental in fighting ISIS, because Turkey would likely launch an attack against them.

National security adviser John Bolton traveled to Israel and Turkey, where he said he would seek assurances from Turkey that the Kurds would be protected and pledged that the USA would ensure that ISIS is defeated.

Speaking in Egypt Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the troop pullout from Syria would go ahead as he urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

Even as administration officials continue to insist the USA will leave Syria, they are indicating - in part by adding conditions for withdrawal without timelines - that the American presence will continue far longer than the President's initial pledge of departure "now" or even by the 120-day deadline the White House offered later.

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Trump begins to move US troops out of Syria

Giving a subsequent speech about broader US policy in the Middle East at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said "now is the time" to bring America's forces out of Syria.

The coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", he said.

A US official told ABC News that in recent days military equipment has been moved out of Syria into Iraq.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria. Top U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest. The latter will no doubt prove the more hard objective to meet. Both had declared that the United States would not leave unless ISIS was entirely defeated and Turkey agreed not to attack Syrian Kurds.

The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the USA forces are stationed.

Shortly after Trump's announcement, some USA officials began to walk it back.

Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group.

In their Wednesday meeting, Trump, Shanahan and Dunford were also set to begin formulating a more fine-tuned withdrawal plan, according to several defense and administration officials.

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