Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Syria withdrawal already under way

Syria withdrawal already under way

USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that equipment was being moved out of Syria, a sign that despite mixed messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was proceeding apace. Perhaps the situation could change again in coming weeks.

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

Democratic Party legislator Adam Schiff on Friday lashed out at the Donald Trump administration for its decision to pull the United States out of Syria.

It's complicated: On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that USA ground troops and naval vessels are moving toward Syria to assist with the withdrawal, defying Bolton.

Residents near border crossings that are typically used by USA forces going in and out of Syria from Iraq said they had seen no obvious or large-scale movement of U.S. ground forces on Friday. Troops work mostly out of small camps in remote parts of the country's northeast.

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. Al-Tanf is on a vital road linking Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon - and Israel's doorstep.

USA national security advisor John Bolton said Friday that talks between US and Turkish military officials will continue next week. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a "betrayal of our Kurdish partners".

US Colonel Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman, said the coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria".

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"We are not withdrawing troops at this stage", one USA defense official said.

"That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

The Syrian Observatory also reported that the SDF is bolstering its forces on the border with Turkey "in anticipation of any surprise attack". But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to crush the Kurdish groups that have been effective in defeating Islamic State in Syria. Two weeks before Trump announced he was ordering a pullout, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the USA still had a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to stabilize areas ridden of the IS group. He said it would take 35,000 to 40,000 local forces in northeastern Syria to maintain security, but only about 20 per cent had been trained.

The beginning of the withdrawal followed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford's meetings in Ankara on Tuesday with Turkish counterpart Gen. Yasar Guler and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. They described the draw-down at the base, held by US forces for the past two years, as "slow and steady".

Turkey considers many of Syria's Kurdish groups to be terrorists and has pledged to attack them.

"The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to Pompeo about the latest developments in Syria", said a brief statement from Turkey's foreign ministry.

She also confessed that the terrorist organization forcefully recruited underage children and sent them to fight against Turkish soldiers during the Operation Olive Branch.

USA forces have started their withdrawal from Syria, initiating the start of a troop reduction that earlier this week was cast into doubt by Predient Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton.

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