U.S. Syria withdrawal officially underway, expected to take 3-4 months

U.S. Syria withdrawal officially underway, expected to take 3-4 months

U.S. Syria withdrawal officially underway, expected to take 3-4 months

Pompeo said on Friday that Washington recognised "the Turkish people's right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists". Erdogan also canceled a meeting with Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton.

Kurdish-led groups who control swathes of northern Syria fear an attack from Turkey in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from their region.

"We have no problems with our Kurdish brothers, Arab brothers in Syria, Turkmens and other ethnic and religious groups", the DM explained, "Our only targets are the terrorists ISIS and PKK/YPG".

Secretary of Defense James Mattis had resigned immediately after Trump's claim in December that the Islamic State group had been defeated.

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday that it suspected the USA government was really intent on maintaining a military force inside Syria indefinitely, in spite of the pullout officially being announced by the Americans.

But shortly after, other witnesses on the ground in Syria reported seeing an influx of Western troops and equipment to parts of Aleppo province in northern Syria.

Trump made the decision to withdraw some 2,000 American troops from Syria last month, amid consultations with the Turkish military over their planned operations in Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month said that ensuring the Turkish military does not massacre the Kurds would be a key priority for the United States following the Pentagon's withdrawal of its troops from Syria.

National Security Advisor John Bolton appeared to contradict the White House Sunday when he said the us withdrawal from Syria would not be immediate, but the Pentagon announced Thursday that without receiving any new direction, it's moving forward with the mission.

United States troops have begun withdrawing from Syria, compounding weeks of confusion over Donald Trump's policy in the Middle East and raising fears over the fate of America's Kurdish allies.

The Defense Department wants to show progress to Trump and the public that they are following through on the President's orders to withdraw troops even though Bolton has indicated troops could remain for some time.

Turkey regards the Kurd-dominated YPG units as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

Over the weekend, Mr Pompeo said he had spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by phone and was "optimistic" that an agreement could be reached with Turkey to protect Kurdish fighters.

More than 2,000 US troops are serving in Syria.

Mr Trump also said that Russia, Iran and Syria had been the biggest beneficiaries of USA action in Syria and it was time to bring American soldiers home. "That's fine, you all write what you like, but the President's been very clear, and Bolton and I have been very clear about this too, that the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is real", Pompeo said.

Media captionWas Trump right to say IS is beaten?

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