Fox News reported on Friday citing a U.S. defense official that the US-led coalition in Syria had started the process of withdrawing troops from the region.
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. A convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, heading for and into Iraq.
News of the first steps of a withdrawal come as the U.S.is negotiating with Turkey about guaranteeing protections for US -allied Kurdish fighters.
Following the announcement, Defense Secretary James Mattis submitted his resignation letter.
The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is under way and that an unspecified number of additional USA troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process.
President Donald Trump confirmed a Syria withdrawal Sunday, but shifted slightly on the timing, saying "we won't be finally pulled out until [the Islamic State] is gone".
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US national security advisor John Bolton said Friday that talks between USA and Turkish military officials will continue next week.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he will carry out the long-planned offensive against the YPG, regardless of the US withdrawal pace. Moscow in particular has seized the initiative across the Middle East to the detriment of the U.S.'s interests, and has urged talks between the Kurdish forces and Damascus.
The Pentagon stressed it would not telegraph its troop movements or give timelines for when they may leave Syria. It also led to major criticism that the USA was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the USA pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.
Initial indications from the White House were that US forces would be withdrawn from Syria in 30 days.
The U.S. withdrawal has presented the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies with an opportunity to recover territory held by the Kurds.
On an unannounced visit to troops stationed near the Syrian border Friday morning, Turkey's defense minister Hulusi Akar reiterated Ankara is "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and said military preparations were ongoing.