U.S. begins pullout in Syria
The United States on Friday said it had begun the process of withdrawing from Syria with the removal of “nonessential equipment” but will keep troops in the country for now.
The coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), led by the U.S., said on Friday that the military had started the “deliberate withdrawal” of the roughly 2,000 American troops in Syria. An official later said only equipment was being moved, and that additional troops had been brought in to help with the operation.
The statements compounded weeks of mixed messages since Donald Trump promised to end military involvement in the country, raising fears over the fate of America’s Kurdish allies. A convoy of 10 U.S. military vehicles was seen leaving a base in Hasakah province in northeast Syria and heading toward the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Trump abruptly announced the U.S. withdrawal from Syria on Dec. 19, blindsiding U.S. allies and triggering a confrontation within his own administration, which led to the resignation of his defence secretary.
Over recent weeks, senior U.S. officials have offered confusing and contradictory accounts of the terms and speed with which the U.S. is leaving.
Trump initially signalled a rapid withdrawal from Syria and U.S. officials said they expected troops to be out within 30 days.
That timeline was then extended to several months in the face of a revolt by national security officials and Trump’s own Republican allies.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, then said on Sunday that the U.S. would not leave until it had assurances that Turkey would not assault the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led group that provided the ground troops to fight ISIL. Bolton’s comments provoked a furious response from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, who accused him of making “a grave mistake” by setting conditions for Turkey. Turkey has threatened to move ahead with the assault against the SDF, which it considers part of a Kurdish terrorist group, regardless of whether the U.S. slows its withdrawal.
Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, said the U.S. withdrawal would not be affected by Erdogan’s threats against the Kurds, but at the same time said the U.S. would work to ensure the Kurds’ safety. “These have been folks that have fought with us and it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected,” he said.
“Erdogan has made commitments; he understands that — I think he uses the language — he talks about (how) he has no beef with the Kurds.”
final date for full withdrawal.