Troop withdrawal from Syria has started, US official confirms

11 January, 2019, 15:37 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • ‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal

The U.S. has started withdrawing military equipment from Syria, an official from the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

Ryan said that the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, the US started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria".

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".

Mr Trump's shock announcement on December 19 that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria alarmed USA allies and prompted the resignation of his defence secretary Jim Mattis.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the US withdrawal, drawing a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called his comments "a serious mistake".

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Middle East this week to reassure allies of Washington's commitment to regional security, said on Thursday the withdrawal would not be scuppered despite the Turkish threats.

The U.S. announcement that Mr. Trump's ordered withdrawal is underway might be enough to convince Turkey to hold fire against America's Kurdish battleground allies, for a while, but Erdogan still wants to go after them, and he could make good on his threats - even on a small scale - at any time.

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Addressing concerns that the United States withdrawal would allow Iranian and Iran-backed forces to remain in Syria and fulfill Tehran's ambition of establishing a strategically important land bridge to the Mediterranean, Mr Pompeo said the United States "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from the country.

Military planners calculate the Pentagon might have to send hundreds of additional forces into Syria on a variety of missions in order to safely withdraw more than 2,000 USA ground forces there, according to two U.S. officials.

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 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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talks to Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (from left to right) ahead of the meeting on Syria in Moscow, on December 29, 2018.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump's momentous decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target US-allied Kurdish fighters who have played a major role in the war against IS but are deemed terrorists by Ankara.

Turkey views the US -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.

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