Backed Syrian force says Islamic State in its ‘final moments’

Leroy Wright
January 14, 2019

Their exit has not just alarmed the nation's Kurds, but even Christians in the country are afraid of what could happen after the US troops leave, says Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria and a USA representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US -backed Kurdish group.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday that he was optimistic the United States and Turkey would reach an agreement on how to protect YPG troops in Syria. Ankara views the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, an outlawed group listed as a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the US.

"Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey", Trump said in a tweet late Sunday.

After media reports suggesting the departure of USA forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria.

Previously Washington said that it would not disclose a timeline for the withdrawal of its troops, and pledging that the US-led worldwide coalition's fight against terrorism would continue.

When Pompeo said earlier this month that the USA wants to ensure "the Turks don't slaughter the Kurds", Turkey denounced Pompeo, saying he exhibited "a worrying lack of information". Without giving any further details, he wrote "Create 20 mile (32 kilometers) safe zone".

US President Donald Trump tweeted that Washington is beginning its pullout of US troops from Syria.

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"Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long-term USA policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies".

Mr Pompeo said the withdrawal of USA troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same. "We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home".

"We will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date", said Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman. "Stop the ENDLESS WARS!" he continued.

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said that several dozen militants were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.

Mr Abdel Rahman said some 16,000 people, including 760 ISIS fighters, had fled the area since the start of December.

The United Nations said on Friday 25,000 people had fled the violence over the past six months as jihadists defend their dwindling bastions.

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