Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Trump Announces Beginning of 'Long Overdue Pullout' of US Troops from Syria

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable US official says troop withdrawal from Syria has started
Ellis Copeland | 14 January, 2019, 03:29

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and Democrats in Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump said the troops would be withdrawn "slowly".

"We have operated with impressive success in thwarting Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria, in the framework of which the military has struck hundreds of times against Iranian and Hezbollah targets", Netanyahu said.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements", Ryan said.

Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu reports. "Our preparation continues intensely", the Turkish defense minister said Friday.

Special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former USA envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions, Pompeo added.

Robertson, in his statement, said the coalition had carried out "logistical measures" to support a withdrawal but did not enter into details. He suggested that the protection of Kurdish allies in the country would be a redline for the withdrawal.

The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the move had "dangerous implications" for stability, would "negatively affect the campaign against terrorism" and create "a political and military vacuum". "However, we will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date".

Several weeks later, national security adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal will have a longer timeline, and will not be undertaken until Kurdish fighters are protected and ISIS is defeated in the war-torn country.

Mr Erdogan told MPs from his governing Justice and Development Party that the U.S. did not know who the various Kurdish groups were, adding: "If the USA evaluates them as "Kurdish brothers" then they are in a serious delusion".

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is optimistic an agreement can be reached with Turkey to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria after the US leaves.

President Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted that the "long overdue pullout from Syria" is starting, and threatened that the USA will "devastate Turkey economically" if they attack Kurdish forces in the war-torn country. Once the troops are gone, the USA will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the IS group a lasting defeat.

"We recognize the Turkish people's right and President Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists and we also know that those who aren't terrorists, those who were fighting alongside us all this time, deserve to be protected and we are confident that we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those: protect the Turks from legitimate terror threats and prevent any substantial risks to folks who don't present terror risks to Turkey", Pompeo told reporters.

He added Pompeo also stressed the importance that the USA places on the protection of forces, namely PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK terror organization.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the USA withdrawal plans.

Sousan said intensified dialog was important when set against challenges, "especially the expansionist ambitions that lead the policies of the Turkish regime".

"In this regard, establishing dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance". Ankara views U.S. Kurdish allies the YPG in Syria as one and the same with the PKK, a group that has waged a 34-year insurgency against Turkey.

He said the USA envoy for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, had travelled to northeast Syria this week and would soon go to Ankara for talks, including on moving forward a UN-led political process to end the eight-year long conflict in Syria.

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