US begins pulling gear from Syria, but not yet troops

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

An American military official said Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 that the USA -led military coalition has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

The United States' withdrawal from Syria is getting under way but, at least for now, it does not involve some 2,000 USA troops on the ground, who are aiding in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.

"We are not withdrawing troops at this stage", an unidentified United States defense official said.

Witnesses on the ground told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights they saw 10 armored vehicles, and other equipment, roll out from a US base in Rmeilan in Hassakeh province and head toward neighboring Iraq. It says about 10 armored vehicles and other equipment arrived at a USA base in al-Rmelan, in al-Hasaka province.

Mr Bolton's conditions for a withdrawal included the defeat of ISIS in Syria and guarantees for the safety of Washington's Kurdish allies, who have been threatened with an imminent offensive by Turkey.

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in a regional tour aimed at reassuring allies after a Trump's shock announcement in December that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria.

On Friday a spokesman said the coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". In recent days Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured the Middle East, reassuring allies of the U.S.'s regional commitments.

In a Sunday-night tweet, Trump said his government was starting the "long overdue pullout" from Syria while hitting the "little remaining" Islamic State "territorial caliphate" and would attack again from a nearby existing base if the jihadist group regroups.

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The announcement is fueling concern about how quickly the US will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by Trump administration officials on an exit timetable. It also sparked criticisms that the U.S.is pulling out of Syria before ISIS is truly defeated - abandoning America's Kurdish allies in the region, ceding hard-won influence to neighboring Turkey, and rewarding Russia's intervention alongside the Syrian regime.

American troops sent to help with the pullout are reportedly already in the region, specifically in Kuwait and the al-Asad air base in Iraq. Following the announcement, he was forced to reiterate the U.S.'s commitment to its more substantial troop to neighboring Iraq, where the USA -led coalition is also fighting ISIS.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the move had "dangerous implications" for stability, would "negatively affect the campaign against terrorism" and create "a political and military vacuum". Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the US pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

Worldwide players in the conflict have been in talks about the future of former USA territory in Syria.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations", Akar told the Turkish troops.

On Friday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said those talks will continue into next week.

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