Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Withdrawal from Syria has begun

Withdrawal from Syria has begun

The US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) confirmed on Friday that the military had started the "deliberate withdrawal" of the roughly 2,000 American troops in Syria.

"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hasakeh province", said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation.

This Aug. 21, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by the anti-government Media Office Of Douma City which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man mourning over a dead body after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by government forces, according to activists, in Douma town, Damascus, Syria.

Over recent weeks, senior USA officials have offered confusing and contradictory accounts of the terms and speed with which the U.S. is leaving. In this photo from December 30, 2018, a line of USA military vehicles are seen at a checkpoint in northern Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the thousands of Turkish troops amassed along the Syrian border would attack whether the U.S. is out or not.

In Moscow on Friday, Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, expressed doubt that the US would continue with its withdrawal, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

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

"If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision", Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Turkey's threat to launch an incursion into Kurdish controlled Syria.

A former military official said U.S. military planners first received their notice about the Syria withdrawal from media reports and the president's comments in December rather than an official military order to leave, forcing them to immediately begin planning.

"However, we will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date".

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.

Speaking in Egypt Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the troop pullout from Syria would go ahead as he urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

Later, a US defence official said no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out. Much of the force is made up of Kurdish fighters, who are also part of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG, which has been linked to the PKK, a Kurdish terror group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

"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. Trump has asserted that the IS group in Syria is defeated, but others have said a continued USA military presence is necessary to prevent a resurgence of the group. But the peace and stability of areas USA forces withdraw from "must be guaranteed", she added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now on an eight-day tour to try to ease concerns about Trump's policies in the region.

Critics of Trump's decision, including within his own Republican party, have said a precipitous withdrawal would shatter United States policy in Syria and allow ISIS to rebuild.

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