Monday, 17 June, 2019

Led coalition says Syria troop withdrawal has begun

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij 2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij
Patty Aguilar | 11 January, 2019, 15:39

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 US would ensure that ISIS is defeated.

Bolton outlined a series of United States objectives in a meeting with the Turks this week, according to a senior administration official briefed on objectives outlined at the meeting.

On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000.

"This is the start of a conversation", the official said.

The coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". We always do and now is the time, but this isn't a change of mission.

Turkey views the USA -backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria. On Monday, he tweeted that the battle to defeat ISIS was still ongoing.

Despite Erdogan's remarkable diplomatic rebuke, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday downplayed the friction.

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"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected", Pompeo said of the Kurds while visiting Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in Baghdad.

The removal of the equipment in recent days was first reported by CNN, which quoted an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation as saying it signaled the beginning of U.S. withdrawal from the Middle Eastern country.

The White House has not yet publicly altered it's most recent criteria, those announced by Bolton a week ago: that ISIS must be defeated and the Kurdish forces' security guaranteed before the American troops all come out.

But now, with the possibility the drawdown will be slowed, the military has to determine timing and phasing based on what the President finally approves.

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday that it suspected the USA government was really intent on maintaining a military force inside Syria indefinitely, in spite of the pullout officially being announced by the Americans. The official told CBS News senior national security correspondent David Martin that equipment had begun moving out earlier this week.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that, "Out of concern for operational security, we will not be discussing specific troop movements or timelines, but we do expect to provide a periodic update on progress regarding percentages of equipment removed from Syria". Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in the wake of the announcement. "Obviously when there is a political solution, we will withdraw", he said without elaborating.

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