The U.S. Has Started Pulling Troops Out of Syria, Military Says

Turkey Stands By Deal To Buy Russian Missiles, Attack Kurds In Syria

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman to US -led military coalition in Syria, has confirmed that that they had begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

Col Sean Ryan told Agence France-Presse in a statement: "Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements".

"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hassakeh province", said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based war monitor, which relies on reports from activists on the ground. A convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, heading for and into Iraq.

On Sunday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slow-down in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now on a Middle East tour to reassure allies about US plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

After initially tweeting that he would bring back United States troops "now", Mr Trump this week said the USA would "be leaving at a proper pace" while "continuing to fight IS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary".

Giving a subsequent speech about broader USA policy in the Middle East at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said "now is the time" to bring America's forces out of Syria.

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The fact that Bolton laid the demand for protection of Kurdish fighters as a condition for U.S. withdrawal from Syria sparked Erdogan's anger.

A US official told ABC News that in recent days military equipment has been moved out of Syria into Iraq. 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.

The White House has not yet publicly altered it's most recent criteria, those announced by Bolton a week ago: that ISIS must be defeated and the Kurdish forces' security guaranteed before the American troops all come out.

CNN reported earlier that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has identified ships, aircraft and ground units that will be used in the operation. The first of those criteria is unmet, but feasible, as the terror group now holds only a small patch of land in Syria. In late December, however, the Syrian government sent troops to Manbij "after Kurdish fighters appealed to Damascus for help against the threat of attack by Turkey in the face of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the area", according to The Guardian. A USA troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other.

Shortly after Trump's announcement, some US officials began to walk it back.

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.

In their Wednesday meeting, Trump, Shanahan and Dunford were also set to begin formulating a more fine-tuned withdrawal plan, according to several defense and administration officials.

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