Syria: US starts pulling equipment but not soldiers


"The withdrawing from northeast Syria in a strong, deliberate and coordinated manner, and seeks to ensure that the forces that have fought alongside coalition partners in the campaign against ISIS are not mistreated", an administration official said following the president's tweet.

"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base", Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, said.

Stressing that the US has not yet begun pulling out its troops, a second Pentagon official revealed that the USA military had begun a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal, noting, "That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment".

President Donald Trump last month claimed that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and said all United States troops were "coming back now".

Moreover, both U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton each made clear in remarks this past week that Trump has no intention of leaving his allies in the lurch, as some have suggested. "Iran is pulling people out of Syria, but they can frankly do whatever they want there", the USA president said.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the US-led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the United States after pressure from its allies.

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A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is now flushing out the very last pockets of land controlled by the jihadists in the Euphrates River Valley.

He said that Turkey and other countries in the middle East are able to resist the remnants of ISIS in Syria without the support of the American side.

The Gulf emirate is his latest stop in a regional tour aimed at reassuring allies after a Trump's shock announcement in December that United States troops would be withdrawn from Syria.

The battle against die-hard jihadists in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely however.

Opponents of the move claim that the pullout will allow Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime to expand their influence in the region.

But observers have stressed that the announcement of the withdrawal was having the same impact in reshuffling the cards of the conflict as the withdrawal itself. "On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone", said Fabrice Balanche, a geographer and Syria expert.