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USA pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

USA pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

After days of conflicting statements about a timeline for U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out American troops from Syria, a U.S. defense official said Friday the withdrawal process has begun with some military cargo pulled out.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan refused to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who earlier had appeared to set conditions on the U.S.withdrawal, including the lasting defeat of the Islamic State and guarantees that Turkey would not attack the YPG.

Very complicated: Bolduc, who served in the Pentagon during the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, said the logistical challenge of getting out of Syria will be less taxing, but the Pentagon still must discern important questions - such as the size of the pullout, and the weapons and equipment that will be turned over.

USA troops have been involved in Syria's war since 2014 when the first elite force arrived in the country to advise Kurdish-led fighters who were involved in battles against the Islamic State group.

President Donald Trump announced last month the decision to withdraw 2,000 USA troops who have deployed to Syria in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia in the fight against Islamic State.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements", Ryan said.

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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.

This is a developing story.

The Kearsarge amphibious ready group (ARG), which includes the 22nd MEU, the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock Arlington and the dock landing ship Fort McHenry, entered the 6th Fleet's area of operations, including the Mediterranean, last month.

The distinctive feature of the USA military campaign in Syria is its partnership with the Kurds and Arabs who were willing to act as American proxies by fighting the Islamic State group without US troops having to take the lead combat role. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the a "force for good" in the Middle East.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reviews an honor guard as he arrives for a meeting with the commanders of military units on Syrian border in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, Jan. 11, 2019.

Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group. A former USA official told Al-Monitor that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "had a unique level of credibility and juice" to defy Bolton, and that few people in the Defense Department have anything good to say about Bolton.

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Ahmed spoke to The Associated Press Friday hours after an American official said the process of withdrawing American equipment from Syria has begun.

She charged that the US appeared to be "looking for a reason to stay" in Syria.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug", he said.

In Cairo on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that although Trump has made a decision to bring troops home, he will keep up the fight against the IS group more broadly.

"Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over", he said, adding, "For our part, our airstrikes in the region will continue as targets arise", he said in a speech at the American University in Cairo.

After initially tweeting about the decision to bring back USA troops "now", Trump this week said "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!"

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The Trump administration now says the withdrawal timeline is open-ended to provide time to arrange an agreement between Turkey and US -backed Kurdish militia groups. US forces took a similar approach in neighboring Iraq, starting in 2014, but in that case, they had a willing partner in the Iraqi government, whereas in Syria, the present without the blessing of President Bashar Assad.