United States troops begin to withdraw from Syria, report says

United States troops begin to withdraw from Syria, report says

The US military has begun moving non-essential gear out of Syria but is not withdrawing troops for now, defense officials said amid uncertainty over America's planned exit from the war-battered nation.

On Sunday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said American troops would not leave northeastern Syria until ISIS is defeated and the American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected.

Pompeo's remarks in Cairo also appeared to contradict Trump's announcement, drawing immediate criticism from Middle East experts as well as officials who served under former USA president Barack Obama.

"The United States will continue to provide support to the Coalition's operation in Syria while withdrawing troops in a deliberate and coordinated manner in order to ensure the safety and protection of US forces", Robertson said in the statement.

Late Friday, Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr.

None of the roughly 2,000 USA troops deployed to Syria had withdrawn from the country as of Friday, a US defense official said.

Bolton, on a visit to the region this week, said the USA pullout was conditional on defeating IS and guarantees that the Kurds would be protected. He said the USA will not discuss a specific timeline, locations or troop movements out of concern for operational security.

19 announcement that he was moving to disentangle USA troops from Syria's complex battlefield sparked fears that the move might undo efforts to defeat the Islamic State's final remnant in Syria. "President Macron spoke to him (Trump) several times and it seems that there has been a change that I think is positive", he said in a television interview on Thursday.

A second United States defence official said the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal. One mechanism for doing so will be periodic public updates, one official said.

A second USA defense official told AFP that the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal.

Citing security concerns, the official declined to discuss when American troops would actually begin leaving the country, saying they were continuing to support the anti-ISIS fight there.

But the first defense official said this was merely part of a regular troop movement. A convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, heading for and into Iraq.

The coalition, which also includes countries such as France and Britain, was formed in mid-2014 to counter IS, which had seized swathes of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a "caliphate".

Turkish forces have been deploying for weeks along the Syrian border.

The statement coming a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo defended the withdrawal, insisting it was not a retreat. The comments angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then refused to meet with Bolton during a visit to Turkey.

Now, America's allies on the ground are turning to Washington's rivals for protection. Turkey, however, considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to a rebellion in Turkey.

Addressing concerns that the United States withdrawal would allow Iranian and Iran-backed forces to remain in Syria and fulfill Tehran's ambition of establishing a strategically important land bridge to the Mediterranean, Mr Pompeo said the U.S. "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from the country.

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

Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, blasted the withdrawal plans. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

Trump initially seemed to call for an immediate withdrawal but has since suggested the pullout would be more gradual. 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.

"On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone".

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