U.S. starts pulling troops out of Syria, talks with Turkey to continue

Saul Bowman
January 12, 2019

The U.S. military has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. defense official confirmed to CBS News on Friday, saying it was expected to take between 90 and 120 days.

A convoy of USA military vehicles rides in Syria's northern city of Manbij.

The Journal reported that to account for shifts in plans, the military is staging personnel and equipment needed for a possible withdrawal, rather than move American forces out.

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.

National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both visited countries in the region to explain the shift in US policy.

"I can confirm the movement of equipment from Syria", the unnamed official was quoted as saying by AFP, but declined to provide further details "for security reasons".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied that the administration's conditions-based approach to withdrawing from Syria undermined the intent of Trump's original order.


National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that US troops would not leave the region until ISIS is defeated and the Kurdish allied fighters are protected. It also sparked criticisms that the U.S.is pulling out of Syria before ISIS is truly defeated - abandoning America's Kurdish allies in the region, ceding hard-won influence to neighboring Turkey, and rewarding Russia's intervention alongside the Syrian regime.

"Regarding this matter, Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake". The announcement fueled concern about how quickly the USA will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by administration officials on an exit timetable.

"We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. And when we partner with our enemies, they advance", he said.

Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that "Russia is sending the signal to everyone that it is in charge and wants all other foreign actors to abide by its decisions in Syria".

Addressing concerns that the U.S. withdrawal would allow Iranian and Iran-backed forces to remain in Syria and fulfill Tehran's ambition of establishing a strategically important land bridge to the Mediterranean, Mr Pompeo said the United States "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from the country.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reviews an honor guard as he arrives for a meeting with the commanders of military units on Syrian border in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, Jan. 11, 2019.

Israel has reportedly lobbied for the Trump administration to reconsider pulling troops out of al-Tanf, and according to the London-based Middle East Eye online portal, the USA withdrawal plan would leave soldiers there. "We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone".

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