Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

USA pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

Bolton contradicts Trump on Syria withdrawal ‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal
Kenny Thornton | 11 January, 2019, 16:56

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the USA -coalition fighting ISIS, says the US started 'the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria'.

The withdrawal began Thursday night, according to the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

For now, two United States defense officials said that observation posts in northern Syrian that were established by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis' order are still in place and manned by USA troops.

National security adviser John Bolton traveled to Israel and Turkey, where he said he would seek assurances from Turkey that the Kurds would be protected and pledged that the US would ensure that ISIS is defeated.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Middle East this week to reassure allies of Washington's commitment to regional security, said on Thursday the withdrawal would not be scuppered despite the Turkish threats.

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.

"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", Pompeo said of the Kurds while visiting Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in Baghdad.

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Military planners calculate the Pentagon might have to send hundreds of additional forces into Syria on a variety of missions in order to safely withdraw more than 2,000 USA ground forces there, according to two U.S. officials.

President Donald Trump confirmed a Syria withdrawal Sunday, but shifted slightly on the timing, saying "we won't be finally pulled out until [the Islamic State] is gone".

America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said during a speech in Egypt. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the US pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

Washington's Kurdish allies in northern Syria fear the withdrawal will open the way for Turkey to mount a long-threatened offensive against their area. Top U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency", Trump tweeted that day, adding that USA troops would leave in the next 30 days.

Ankara's anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any US withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG.

Over the past years, the relations between Turkey and the United States have been hampered by Ankara's concerns over U.S. support for the YPG, viewed by the Turkish authorities as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, listed as a terrorist organisation in the country.

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