Global

USA military announces start of troop withdrawal from Syria

USA military announces start of troop withdrawal from Syria

The U.S. started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", said Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

But another source close to Kurdish military officials in Syria told VOA it appeared the USA military is in the process of relocating equipment and personnel within Syria.

The US military has started moving non-essential equipment out of Syria but it is not withdrawing troops for now, a defense official said Friday as the Pentagon sought to clarify an earlier statement.

The announcement that U.S. troops would leave the civil war-racked country - where they have been deployed to assist in the multinational fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group - shocked global partners and American politicians alike.

The withdrawal began Thursday night, according to the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

That report could not be independently confirmed Friday morning, and it was unclear whether the movement indicated a drawdown or was just a planned rotation. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements".

On Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton set out stringent conditions for the proposed withdrawal, saying the defense of allies must first be assured.

Ankara says it is preparing an assault in Northern Syria.

Questions have swirled around the withdrawal order since Trump made the unexpected announcement last month.

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The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the Americans are not serious about withdrawing from Syria.

The White House may not have yet publicly altered its criteria for withdrawal, but certainly something has changed.

Both NBC and CBS point out that this appears to contradict messaging from both Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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 U.S after pressure from its allies.

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.

While Trump initially said USA troops will be coming home "now", he took to Twitter on January 7 to say that "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!"

But after the resignations of Mattis and McGurk and amid a wave of bipartisan criticism in Washington, Trump hinted at a longer timeframe.

Israel has reportedly lobbied for the Trump administration to reconsider pulling troops out of al-Tanf, and according to the London-based Middle East Eye online portal, the U.S. withdrawal plan would leave soldiers there.


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