World

U.S. pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

U.S. pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mr Pompeo said the USA recognised "the Turkish people's right and Mr Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

President Donald Trump claimed in December that USA troops had defeated the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and would now return home.

He added Turkey will not seek permission from anyone on its fight against terrorist organizations.

President Donald Trump last month claimed the Islamic State group had been defeated and said USA troops would return home "now".

Mr Trump's comments on Sunday followed further criticism of his abrupt decision to withdraw USA forces from Syria.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that equipment was being moved out of Syria, a sign that despite mixed messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was proceeding apace.

Pompeo's remarks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, come after the Pentagon announced Friday that "the process of our deliberate withdrawal" had begun.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is optimistic an agreement can be reached with Turkey to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria after the US leaves. For years Trump has criticized US deployment in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.




He offered no details, but said the USA special envoy for Syria and the anti-IS coalition, Jim Jeffrey, had traveled to northern Syria earlier this past week to work on the matter and would be returning to Turkey to continue the discussions.

Senior officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have declined to put a timeline on when troops would be withdrawn. USA forces took a similar approach in neighbouring Iraq, starting in 2014, but in that case, they had a willing partner in the Iraqi government, whereas in Syria, the U.S.is present without the blessing of President Bashar Assad.

The United States has started the "deliberate withdrawal" process of its forces from Syria, US military officials confirmed on Friday, but they refused to provide any details on exactly what troops and equipment were being moved. Ankara sees the YPG Kurdish fighting units of the SDF as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK movement that for decades has waged an insurgency inside Turkey. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart even as the White House vows to keep pressure on the Islamic State group.

He added Pompeo also stressed the importance that the USA places on the protection of forces, namely PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK terror organization.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

USA airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

The YPG is an important ally in the US war against the Islamic State.

Turkey's president wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Trump "made the right call".


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