US Military Announces Start of Syria Pullout

US Military Announces Start of Syria Pullout

US Military Announces Start of Syria Pullout

Earlier on December 19, U.S. President Donald Trump announced an immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria but later said that he did not have a specific time limit for the pullout, signaling to an extension of the presence of U.S. troops on the grounds.

Hours earlier, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US -led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night.

"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 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The US flag flutters on a military vehicle in Manbej countryside, Syria May 12, 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equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

In a statement, Col. Ryan said the US -led coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria".

Trump claimed last month that the jihadists had been defeated and that United States troops could therefore come home.

Air strikes and special forces have played key roles in efforts to claw back the territory lost to ISIS.

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A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is now flushing out the very last pockets of land controlled by the jihadists in the Euphrates River Valley.

"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 US -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.

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

Bolton's comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump's announcement, including by Turkey which described them as "unacceptable".

The battle against die-hard militants in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely.

And the Kurdish militia which has spearheaded the ground battle against the jihadist group is left exposed to a Turkish offensive by the United States withdrawal.

The People's Protection Units (YPG), which have spearheaded ground operations against ISIS in Syria, are an offshoot of the Kurdish PKK, which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all United States forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000.

Opponents of the move claim that the pullout will allow Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime to expand their influence in the region. He spoke before the announcement on the US withdrawal and did not address it.

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