USA withdraws some military equipment from Syria

Larry Hoffman
January 12, 2019

The U.S. has "begun the process" of a deliberate troop withdrawal from Syria, according to a statement Friday from a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Earlier, US military spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan had said the US had begun "the process of our deliberate withdrawal" from Syria. He said the US will not discuss a specific timeline, locations or troop movements out of concern for operational security.

The U.K. -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely tracks developments in the civil war, said the withdrawal began on Thursday, with a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks moving out of Rmeilan in Syria and relocating to Iraq. Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them, declaring in a tweet the defeat of ISIS, sent shockwaves across the region and led to the resignation of U.S. Defence Minister James Mattis and the top U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

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

Damascus and Kurdish forces have reportedly stepped up their efforts to strike a longstanding political settlement following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw USA troops from Syria.

Pompeo suggested on Monday that Erdogan and Trump had a firm agreement about the Kurds, telling CNBC that "the Turks would ensure that the folks that we'd fought with, that had assisted us in the counter-ISIS campaign would be protected".

On Friday, Bolton said that the militaries of the U.S. and Turkey are set to continue negotiating on the Kurdish issue. Two weeks before Trump announced he was ordering a pullout, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US still had a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to stabilize areas ridden of the IS group.

A readout of the meeting from the Joint Staff said that Dunford, Guler and Akar "discussed the security situation in Syria, the completion of the Manbij roadmap [on security cooperation], and the deliberate, coordinated effort to withdraw USA ground forces from Syria".

The statement appeared to contradict John Bolton, President Trump's national security advisor, who said on Monday that... Ankara considers the presence of well-armed Kurdish forces near its southern border to be a national security threat.

Meanwhile, Turkey's defense minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday that his country is preparing for an "intense" attack across the Euphrates in Syria, as soon as the Americans withdraw. He spoke before the announcement on the US withdrawal and did not address it.

While the US military pullout is now officially underway it has made a slow start.

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

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the thousands of Turkish troops amassed along the Syrian border would attack whether the USA is out or not.

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