US be­gins with­draw­ing gear from Syria, but not troops

Iran Daily - - International -

The US mil­i­tary has be­gun mov­ing non-essen­tial gear out of Syria but is not with­draw­ing troops for now, de­fense of­fi­cials said amid un­cer­tainty over Amer­ica’s planned exit from the war-bat­tered na­tion.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump last month claimed the Daesh ter­ror­ist group had been de­feated in Syria and said all US troops were “com­ing back now,” AFP re­ported.

But in the weeks since he gave the or­der, and the Pen­tagon be­gan to im­ple­ment it, Trump him­self and mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion have de­liv­ered mixed mes­sages about when a troop with­drawal may ac­tu­ally oc­cur.

Trump’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton last Sun­day an­nounced con­di­tions for a with­drawal that ap­peared to de­lay it in­def­i­nitely.

Adding to the con­fu­sion, a mil­i­tary spokesman said the US had al­ready be­gun “the process of our de­lib­er­ate with­drawal” from Syria.

Late Fri­day, Pen­tagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robert­son said that Op­er­a­tion In­her­ent Re­solve “is im­ple­ment­ing the or­derly with­drawal of forces from north­east Syria within a frame­work co­or­di­nated across the US govern­ment.” The with­drawal, Robert­son said, “is based on op­er­a­tional con­di­tions on the ground, in­clud­ing con­ver­sa­tion with our al­lies and part­ners, and is not be sub­ject to an ar­bi­trary time­line.”

He added, “For pur­poses of op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity, we will not dis­cuss spe­cific troop move­ments or time­lines.

“How­ever, we will con­firm that there has been no re­de­ploy­ment of mil­i­tary per­son­nel from Syria to date. The mis­sion has not changed.”

US de­fense of­fi­cials said the with­drawal was only of cer­tain types of gear, and not troops.

“We are not with­draw­ing troops at this stage,” one US de­fense of­fi­cial said. A se­cond US de­fense of­fi­cial told AFP that the mil­i­tary had con­ducted a num­ber of prepa­ra­tions for a de­lib­er­ate with­drawal.

“That in­cludes plan­ning for the mov­ing of peo­ple and equip­ment, prepa­ra­tion of fa­cil­i­ties to ac­cept ret­ro­grade equip­ment,” the of­fi­cial said, not­ing that no troops had been with­drawn.

The so-called Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights re­ported ear­lier that the Us-led coali­tion in Syria had started scal­ing down its pres­ence at Rmeilan air­field in the Hasakah prov­ince of north­east­ern Syria.

But the first de­fense of­fi­cial said this was merely part of a reg­u­lar troop move­ment.

The Us-led coali­tion has sev­eral other bases across north­east­ern Syria, as well as in neigh­bor­ing Iraq, where Trump has said Amer­i­can forces will re­main. The coali­tion, which also in­cludes coun­tries such as France and Bri­tain, was formed in mid-2014 ap­par­ently to counter Daesh, which had seized swathes of Iraq and Syria and pro­claimed a “caliphate.”

The start of the draw­down co­in­cided with a Mid­dle East tour by US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, who in­sisted in Cairo on Thurs­day that the with­drawal would go ahead de­spite wide­spread crit­i­cism.

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP A photo taken on De­cem­ber 30, 2018 shows a con­voy of US mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles driv­ing through Syria’s north­ern city of Man­bij.

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