Pentagon says US has begun its withdrawal from SyriaEuropost
The Pentagon says US military personnel in Syria are moving ahead with President Trump's order to pull out of the war-torn country. The US force in Syria has "begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," said Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. More than 2,000 US troops are currently deployed in Syria.
News of the first steps of a withdrawal come as the US is negotiating with Turkey about guaranteeing protections for US-allied Kurdish fighters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government considers the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria to be a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish separatist groups within Turkey.
On Friday, US national security adviser John Bolton said those talks will continue into next week. They're taking place even as Erdogan says his military is prepared for a possible operation in northern Syria.
Questions have swirled around the withdrawal order since Trump made the unexpected announcement last month. It also sparked criticisms that the US is pulling out of Syria before IS is truly defeated — abandoning America's Kurdish allies in the region, ceding hard-won influence to neighboring Turkey, and rewarding Russia's intervention alongside the Syrian regime.
Turkey welcomed Trump's surprise order to the Pentagon, while other US NATO allies said they received no notice. Within the Trump administration, disagreement over the pullout quickly led to the resignations of both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the president's special envoy to the coalition fighting IS.
The timeline for withdrawal has been the subject of shifting statements from the White House, which has been accused of sending mixed messages about its mission in Syria and its broader priorities in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently on an eight-day tour to try to ease concerns about Trump's policies in the region. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the US is a "force for good" in the Middle East. On Friday, he told Egyptian state TV that the US will pull out of Syria as the president ordered, "but we'll do so in a way that makes sense, that is orderly, that does everything we can to ensure the security of those who fought alongside us defeating the caliphate inside of Syria."
Erdogan gave a speech to Parliament in which he rejected the idea that Turkey would not harm Kurdish fighters and said his country will allow no concessions in its war against terrorism.