Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

"The execute order for Syria has been signed", a U.S. military spokesperson told AFP when asked about the withdrawal order, without providing further details.

"I think that the supporters of preserving the U.S.'s illegal military presence in Syria have rather strong positions in Washington...."

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.

Kurdish officials, meanwhile, have demanded clarifications from the USA over its intentions.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the USA -led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the U.S after pressure from its allies.

'CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria, ' spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-jihadist force.

The fate of USA troops in Syria was further muddled Tuesday when Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Bolton made a "grave mistake" when he demanded Turkey pledge protection of the American supported Kurdish fighters.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

But experts were quick to point out that the Islamic State had not been defeated.

The planned withdrawal has unsettled allies, undermined the Kurds and deeply roiled relations with Turkey, an issue Trump was expected to discuss during his Wednesday meeting with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus government, said on Friday it had the impression that the United States wanted to stay despite the announced withdrawal of US troops, RIA news agency reported.

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

Syrian Kurds demonstrate against threats from Turkey to carry out a fresh offensive following the US decision to withdraw their troops in the Syrian Kurdish-majority city Qamishli, on December 28, 2018. It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack. Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all US forces left.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the U.S. withdrawal.

But the Baghdad-based official did not give details and it is unclear how many vehicles or troop units had been withdrawn.

"The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria", he tweeted.

After initially tweeting about the decision to bring back USA troops "now", Trump this week said "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!"

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