U.S. military begins withdrawal from Syria

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

The first U.S. military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria in recent days, signaling the beginning of the drawdown ordered by President Donald Trump, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the U.S. president's announcement" of a military withdrawal from Syria last month, he said. It said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

News of the first steps of a withdrawal come as the U.S.is negotiating with Turkey about guaranteeing protections for US -allied Kurdish fighters.

But following a backlash from Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump said the troops would be withdrawn "slowly".

'CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria, ' spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-jihadist force.

President Trump blindsided worldwide and regional allies, such as the YPG, on December 19 when he announced he would bring US troops home.

"It doesn't materially alter our capacity to continue to perform the military actions that we need to perform", Pompeo told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

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US national security advisor John Bolton said Friday that talks between USA and Turkish military officials will continue next week. It also sparked criticisms that the U.S.is pulling out of Syria before ISIS is truly defeated - abandoning America's Kurdish allies in the region, ceding hard-won influence to neighboring Turkey, and rewarding Russia's intervention alongside the Syrian regime.

But shortly after, other witnesses on the ground in Syria reported seeing an influx of Western troops and equipment to parts of Aleppo province in northern Syria. For years Trump has criticized US deployment in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most immediately impacted may be America's Syrian Kurdish allies, who proved an effective fighting force against Islamic State militants.

The U.S. withdrawal has presented the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies with an opportunity to recover territory held by the Kurds.

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. In this photo from December 30, 2018, a line of USA military vehicles are seen at a checkpoint in northern Syria. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the U.S.is a "force for good" in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also offered reassurance for the safety of the Kurds.

President Donald Trump last month claimed the Islamic State group had been defeated and said U.S. troops would return home "now".

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