United States military begins withdrawal from Syria

A U.S. army vehicle is seen in the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria on Dec. 15 2018

"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equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

Witnesses on the ground told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights they saw 10 armored vehicles, and other equipment, roll out from a US base in Rmeilan in Hassakeh province and head toward neighboring Iraq.

Over recent weeks, senior United States officials have offered confusing and contradictory accounts of the terms and speed with which the United States is leaving.

"We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again", Bolton said when meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Mr Pompeo is touring the Middle East to try to reassure allies following President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement last month that USA forces would withdraw from Syria.

The US president also warned that it "will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds".

The withdrawal began with shipments of military equipment, US defence officials said.

The official says the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where about 2000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

Special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former USA envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions, Pompeo added.

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US Colonel Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman, said the coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". It also provoked concerns about the safety of Kurdish forces who fought ISIS alongside the U.S.in Syria but are considered terrorists by Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Ironically, troops that are designated to help with the eventual withdrawal already are in the area, adding more more troops in the vicinity now than before President Donald Trump announced the Syria withdrawal in December.

The Trump administration is yet to decide how it plans to withdraw its troops from Syria, according to several senators said Thursday, following a closed-door metering of Senate Armed Services Committee and Pentagon officials, Stars and Stripes reported.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is defending President Trump's decision to remove USA troops from Syria.

Most immediately impacted may be America's Syrian Kurdish allies, who proved an effective fighting force against Islamic State militants.

Mr Pompeo said the withdrawal of USA troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same. In public statements, he had repeatedly suggested that he wanted to bring American troops back home.

President Donald Trump last month claimed the Islamic State group had been defeated in Syria and said all U.S. troops were "coming back now".

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