Equipment, not troops being moved out of Syria: Pentagon

Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

Erdogan has said his military is prepared to attack swaths of Syria under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

"[The coalition] has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". Earlier this week, the Pentagon said in a statement 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".

Speaking to Newsweek, a senior Defense Department source pinpointed one area of current withdrawal activity, at a strategic airstrip on Syria's northeastern border with Iraq. The U.S. doesn't want these prisoners to be released once U.S. forces are gone, since they could rejoin the militant cause in Syria or elsewhere.

USA airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of frontline activists to monitor the Syrian civil war, reported that roughly 10 USA armored vehicles and several trucks pulled out of the northeastern Syria town of Rmelan on Thursday night and crossed into Iraq.

Residents near border-crossing points typically used by USA forces moving in and out of Syria from Iraq told Reuters they had seen no obvious or large-scale movements following Friday's announcement.

Trump initially indicated that the withdrawal would be quick but has since stated that it would be "slow and coordinated" with allies.

Mr Bolton was on a visit to Ankara to seek guarantees over the Kurdish fighters, but President Erdogan declined to meet him.

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained over U.S. backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

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He made the announcement in an interview during a regional tour aimed at reassuring U.S. allies after President Donald Trump's shock decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran's influence could grow.

Relations between Tehran and Washington are highly fraught following the decision in May by President Donald Trump to pull the USA out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and to reimpose sanctions.

The president's supporters praised the withdrawal announcement as a delivery of his campaign pledge to pull American forces out of foreign wars.

His visit follows an address in Cairo on Thursday in which he pledged continuing United States support for stabilising the region and countering the threat posed by Iran and its role in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

The military is carrying out the withdrawal under an order signed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis just before he left office December 31.

Seeking to quell concern about the US troop withdrawal from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday described the American exit as a "tactical change" in military strategy that wouldn't deter efforts to defeat ISIS or hurt USA interests in the region. He did, however, yesterday confirm the withdrawal would go ahead as planned.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the United States withdrawal plans.

He said that he believed USA media outlets will react to the White House initiative for falling in line with efforts to cause instability in the Middle East.

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