Syria withdrawal already under way

‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal

‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal

The United States-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has started the process of withdrawing from Syria, its spokesperson has said.

On December 19, President Trump announced that the USA would pull the estimated 2,000 troops it has stationed in Syria because the Islamic State had been defeated in the country.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night.

Other analysts argued that it would be wrong for Trump to abandon USA allies the Kurds, who have been instrumental in fighting ISIS, because Turkey would likely launch an attack against them.

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.

USA national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until ISIS is defeated and US -backed Kurds were protected.

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.

In a rare acknowledgment that French troops were also in Syria, he said they would leave when there is a political solution in the country.

Turkish media are also reporting of divisions within Turkey's military over the launching of a military operation into Syria in winter and before the full withdrawal of USA forces.

President Donald Trump confirmed a Syria withdrawal Sunday, but shifted slightly on the timing, saying "we won't be finally pulled out until [the Islamic State] is gone".

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the USA -led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the U.S after pressure from its allies.

US forces' vehicles and structures are seen on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on December 26, 2018.

Officials have told CNN that one way they expect to demonstrate progress in meeting Trump's wish is to start discussing percentages of military equipment that will be pulled out of Syria - even though its expected no actual troops are coming out soon. Top U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest. A US troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other. The first of those criteria is unmet, but feasible, as the terror group now holds only a small patch of land in Syria.

A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the USA beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision". Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all USA forces left.

Turkey believes that the YPG presence near its border threatens its national security. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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