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Withdrawal from Syria begun

Withdrawal from Syria begun

Senior US officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

Donald Trump has warned its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally to beware of the devastative wrath of United States economic pressure if Turkey dares to attack the Kurdish allies America is leaving behind in its "long overdue" pull-out of troops from Syria. He said military preparations were ongoing.

The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is underway and an unspecified number of additional USA troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process.

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

Erdogan has said his military is prepared to attack swaths of Syria under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

U.S. forces have fought alongside a Kurdish militia in northern Syria against the Islamic State (IS) group.

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On Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton set out stringent conditions for the proposed withdrawal, saying the defense of allies must first be assured.

"What we're still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen", Bolton said.

U.S. officials, among them Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have made it clear they do not want Turkey "to slaughter" the Kurds, their partners against the Islamic State, when Washington retreats from Syria, a move seen as a betrayal by many Kurds who lost thousands of men and women during the war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Masoud Barzani leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the province's capital Arbil during a Middle East tour, on January 9, 2019.

Bolton said last Sunday that the Trump administration would delay pulling American troops from Syria until Turkey assures the USA that Kurdish forces won't be touched.

"We have no problems with our Kurdish brothers, Arab brothers in Syria, Turkmens and other ethnic and religious groups", the DM explained, "Our only targets are the terrorists ISIS and PKK/YPG". 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.

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Pompeo stressed those fighting alongside the US are not terrorists and deserve protection.

A Kurdish official told Reuters last week they had presented Russian Federation with a roadmap to a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield Kurdish autonomy in the north.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the U.S. withdrawal plans.

A Kurdish politician told Reuters last week the Kurds had presented Moscow with a roadmap for a deal with Damascus.

The US military has started moving non-essential equipment out of Syria, but it is not withdrawing troops for now, a defence official said Friday as the Pentagon sought to clarify an earlier statement.

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Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the US-led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the United States after pressure from its allies.


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