U.S. seals Syria exit govt shutdown stays

Turkey says it will take over fight against IS after U.S. pull-out

Turkey says it will take over fight against IS after U.S. pull-out

Shortly after news of McGurk's resignation broke, Trump again defended his decision to pull all of the roughly 2,000 US forces from Syria in the coming weeks.

A Turkish military convoy arrived overnight on Monday at the border with local media reporting that some vehicles had entered Syria.

Though this hasn't happened, the announced U.S. pullout seems to have taken Iraq by surprise. The decision also caused alarm and dismay in the USA military over the prospect of suddenly abandoning Washington's Kurdish partners.

Syrian government forces have reportedly been massing troops in Deir el-Zour province, across the Euphrates River from Kurdish-held territory. The Iraqi military is not in the best of condition after its own protracted ISIS war, however, and it's not clear they'd be up for sustaining a foreign deployment.

The withdrawal decision will fulfill Trump's goal of bringing troops home from Syria, but military leaders have pushed back for months, arguing that the IS group remains a threat and could regroup in Syria's long-running civil war.

Aldar Khalil, who played a key role in establishing Syria's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in 2013, said the USA and its partners "must honour their commitments" while operating in the country.

Late Sunday he tweeted that Erdogan had assured him that any IS fighters remaining will be eliminated.

There is no reason to doubt Donald Trump's determination to entirely pull out of Syria, Israeli publicist Avigdor Eskin told Sputnik.

Some 2,000 U.S. troops have helped rid much of Syria's north-east of the jihadist group, but pockets of fighters remain.

Among officials' key concerns is that a US pullout will leave USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces vulnerable to attacks by Turkey, the Syrian government and remaining IS fighters.

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The heightened military activity comes two days after President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would postpone a planned military operation on Kurdish YPG militia east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria following the USA decision to pull out.

"The execute order for Syria has been signed", a US military spokesperson told AFP on Sunday in response to a query, without providing further details.

U.S. Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis resigned earlier this week also - partly in response to the president's decision.

For weeks, Turkey has been threatening to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish fighters, who partnered with the U.S.to drive the Islamic State group out of much of northern and eastern Syria.

This photo released on the Facebook page of the Military Council of Manbij City, shows USA troops based around the Syrian town of Manbij speaking with residents, in northern Syria, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018.

Israel has been careful to point out that it respects the USA decision, but analysts say that beneath those public pronouncements are concerns over whether its main enemy Iran will have a freer hand.

Erdogan, speaking to reporters in Ankara, said Turkey was taking into account Trump's announcement on Syria rather than French President Emmanuel Macron's decision. Those notions were given currency by Trump's tweets about withdrawing troops and freezing funds earmarked for Syria.

Manbij was at the center of an agreement the US and Turkey reached in June under which Kurdish forces were to withdraw.

Discussing the USA role in Syria this month, he had told journalists that "it would be reckless if we were just to say, "Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now".

But he said concerns over whether Iran will take advantage of the U.S. withdrawal were legitimate.

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