Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

US military removes some equipment from Syria; Russia sckeptical

US military removes some equipment from Syria; Russia sckeptical

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".

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night.

Trump's decision to remove troops from Syria sent shockwaves through the embattled region and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The coalition's announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an address to regional allies in Cairo that Washington was going ahead with the pullout of about 2,000 troops stationed in Syria.

Recent reports have indicated the United States is considering leaving some troops in place at the al-Tanf base in southern Syria, which is seen as a key bulwark against Iran.

"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected", Pompeo said of the Kurds while visiting Erbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in Baghdad.

"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.

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America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said during a speech in Egypt.

USA forces' vehicles and structures are seen on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on December 26, 2018.

The US president concluded: "Our troops are coming home!"

Kurdish officials, meanwhile, have demanded clarifications from the US over its intentions. Both had declared that the U.S. would not leave unless ISIS was entirely defeated and Turkey agreed not to attack Syrian Kurds. The first of those criteria is unmet, but feasible, as the terror group now holds only a small patch of land in Syria.

The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed.

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.

Turkey believes that the YPG presence near its border threatens its national security.

In their Wednesday meeting, Trump, Shanahan and Dunford were also set to begin formulating a more fine-tuned withdrawal plan, according to several defense and administration officials.

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