Led coalition begins withdrawal from Syria

Leroy Wright
January 11, 2019

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman to USA -led military coalition in Syria, has confirmed that that they had begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

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 ISIS in Syria. Top U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that, "Out of concern for operational security, we will not be discussing specific troop movements or timelines, but we do expect to provide a periodic update on progress regarding percentages of equipment removed from Syria".

"Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told AFP in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-militancy force.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump's momentous decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target US-allied Kurdish fighters who have played a major role in the war against IS but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. A USA troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other.

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U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the United States withdrawal, drawing a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments "a serious mistake". Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also sought to reassure the Kurds they will be safe after the USA completely pulls out.

The Kurdish groups that control the north have turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north. Turkey views the dominant Syrian Kurdish groups as a national security threat.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the US -led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the U.S after pressure from its allies. We always do and now is the time, but this isn't a change of mission.

Even as administration officials continue to insist the U.S. will leave Syria, they are indicating - in part by adding conditions for withdrawal without timelines - that the American presence will continue far longer than the President's initial pledge of departure "now" or even by the 120-day deadline the White House offered later.

"It is not possible for us to swallow the message Bolton gave from Israel", Erdogan said in the Turkish Parliament after refusing to meet with Bolton on his visit to Turkey.

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