United States begins pulling gear from Syria, but not yet troops

Pauline Gross
January 14, 2019

"Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see", Bolton said Sunday, which struck a different tone than the December 19 announcement White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made, in which she said the USA had already begun pulling American troops.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS, confirmed earlier in the day to The Associated Press that "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" was underway.

He said the U.S. would not discuss a specific timeline, locations or troop movements out of concern for operational security.

The news that a withdrawal had begun was confirmed on Thursday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the United Kingdom, which monitors activity in the war-town country through a network of activists.

There has been confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurdish fighters, who Ankara views as terrorists due to their ties to insurgents within Turkey.

Most recently, both the Pentagon and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton have said there is no deadline for U.S. troops in Syria to return home.

A USA army vehicle supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in Hajin, eastern Syria, on December 15, 2018.

The White House has not yet publicly altered it's most recent criteria, those announced by Bolton a week ago: that ISIS must be defeated and the Kurdish forces' security guaranteed before the American troops all come out.

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Any Turkish assault on the Kurdish-held territories in Syria liberated from the Islamic State while American forces are still there may entail a potential conflict between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is now flushing the jihadists from the very last pockets of land they control in the Euphrates River Valley.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (center) visited Bahrain on Friday.

After speaking to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Pompeo said an agreement was a work in progress but can be achieved in a way that allows the Turks to defend their country while leaving alone Kurds who do not pose a threat.

Trump's decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked US allies and angered the Kurds in Syria, who are vulnerable to attack by Turkey.

The speech sought to lay out the Trump administration's strategy for the Middle East and criticised former president Barack Obama, without naming him, for "fundamental misunderstandings" about the Middle East. He added that Ankara's mission in northern Syria is to purge terrorist groups from the entire area, not only Manbij.

As part of the influx, they described seeing "a column of about 150 vehicles carrying armored vehicles, military, and logistical equipment", the observatory said.

Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Other reports by GizPress

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