U.S. military removes some equipment from Syria; Russia sckeptical

Sergio Conner
January 11, 2019

The U.S. -led coalition against Islamic State has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria, a spokesman said on Friday, indicating the start of a U.S. pullout that has been clouded by mixed messages from Washington.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", he said.

"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.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against ISIS in Syria. Ironically, troops that are designated to help with the eventual withdrawal already are in the area, adding more more troops in the vicinity now than before President Donald Trump announced the Syria withdrawal in December.

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.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday there is "no contradiction whatsoever" in the administration's Syria strategy, the Journal reported, declaring the withdrawal will take place.

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In a rare acknowledgment that French troops were also in Syria, he said they would leave when there is a political solution in the country.

While Mr Trump's tweets announcing his decision declared that ISIS had been defeated and suggested the withdrawal would begin immediately, the president later clarified that it would be done gradually after facing resistance from his security officials and the Pentagon.

Giving a subsequent speech about broader USA 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. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the USA pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

Kurdish officials, meanwhile, have demanded clarifications from the US over its intentions.

US Central Command has come up with an execution plan in order to safely withdraw troops there, officials tell CNN.

Syrian Kurds demonstrate against threats from Turkey to carry out a fresh offensive following the USA decision to withdraw their troops in the Syrian Kurdish-majority city Qamishli, on December 28, 2018. Turkey views the Kurdish YPG militia, which forms the core of the SDF force, as a national security threat. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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