Military Going Ahead With Syria Withdrawal Plans

Turkish president slams US over mixed message

President Donald Trump's promised withdrawal of American troops from Syria has begun, the US-led coalition against ISIS announced on Friday.

Col Sean Ryan told Agence France-Presse in a statement: "Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve has begun 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".

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

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

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

Mr Trump initially signalled a rapid withdrawal from Syria and U.S. officials said they expected troops to be out with 30 days.

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"We can see the way statements on the decision to withdraw forces are interpreted in various authoritative structures in the USA and which signals on this issue are coming from representatives of the administration itself", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told journalists on Wednesday, signaling that officials in Moscow are still attempting to interpret the variety of statements coming out of Washington. Top U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

Turkey considers several Kurdish groups - including the People's Protection Units, also known as the YPG - to be terrorist organizations.

"President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria".

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.

Syrian Kurds demonstrate against threats from Turkey to carry out a fresh offensive following the US decision to withdraw their troops in the Syrian Kurdish-majority city Qamishli, on December 28, 2018.

USA troops have been involved in Syria's war since 2014 when the first elite force arrived in the country to advise Kurdish-led fighters who were involved in battles against the Islamic State group. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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