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USA troops begin to withdraw from Syria, report says

12 January 2019

"CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told the AFP news agency in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-Islamic State group (IS) force.

The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is underway and an unspecified number of additional USA troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", Ryan said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Separately, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, confirmed that the U.S. had started withdrawing troops from the airfield base near the town of Rmeilan in northeast Syria on Thursday evening. It says about 10 armored vehicles and other equipment arrived at a USA base in al-Rmelan, in al-Hasaka province.

Syrian government delegates have been engaging in talks with Kurdish leaders over the course of the multi-year war, and Washington's pull-out could encourage the Kurds to finally agree to a compromise with Damascus, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be vulnerable to a Turkish assault in northern Syria following a USA withdrawal.

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It was announced that the 2,000 troops in Syria would be withdrawn over the course of 60 to 100 days, but officials including US national security adviser John Bolton have said the US States will not leave until IS is defeated.

CNN reported earlier that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has identified ships, aircraft and ground units that will be used in the operation.

The AP, citing a US defense official, also reported that the pullout thus far has involved only equipment and not the estimated 2,000 USA troops believed to be in Syria. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the U.S.is a "force for good" in the Middle East.

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the US -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.

While the USA military pullout is now officially underway it has made a slow start.

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Turkey welcomed Trump's surprise order to the Pentagon, while other U.S. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies said they received no notice.

Pompeo suggested on Monday that Erdogan and Trump had a firm agreement about the Kurds, telling CNBC that "the Turks would ensure that the folks that we'd fought with, that had assisted us in the counter-ISIS campaign would be protected".

The U.S. military has a limited network of bases inside Syria.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug", he said.

Earlier this week, Bolton called security assurances for the USA -backed Kurdish forces a necessary condition for the withdrawal of US forces from Syria. He has questioned the wisdom of continuing the 17-year war in Afghanistan and recently demanded that about half of the 14,000 US troops there be sent home. She said Russian Federation has not seen public statements laying out the US strategy in Syria and so can not be sure that the U.S.is serious about leaving.

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USA troops begin to withdraw from Syria, report says