US-led coalition starts Syria pullout
THE US-led military coalition has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria, an American military official said.
Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said the US had started “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria”.
“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements,” he said in a statement.
There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles or whether any troop units had withdrawn.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began on Thursday night. It said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles and some trucks pulled out from Syria’s north-eastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.
Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump’s pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America’s partners on the ground in the war against IS in Syria.
There are 2,000 American troops in Syria. Mr Trump’s abrupt decision in December to pull them out, declaring in a tweet the defeat of IS, sent shockwaves across the region and led to the resignation of US defence minister James Mattis and the top US envoy to the anti-IS coalition.
It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the Americans are not serious about withdrawing.