US Military Begins to Withdraw Equipment from Syria

Arturo Kim
January 14, 2019

A USA defense official says no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out.

"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the United States president's announcement" of a military withdrawal from Syria last month, he said.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", he added.

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

Ankara has been infuriated by the USA support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG under the pretext of fighting against Daesh.

A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the US beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision". US Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned soon after the announcement. It also led to major criticism that the USA was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.

Trump's hasty announcement in December of a USA exit from the war-torn country has caused confusion among allies and adversaries alike, and it also led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Trump also refused to directly answer a question about the timeline of the US withdrawal from Syria, saying only that it will happen "over a period of time". A US troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other.

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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.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States, and on the other the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian regime sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory.

Though Mr Trump has said he wants a withdrawal to be coordinated, gradual and "prudent", observers have stressed that his announcement was having the same impact as a withdrawal itself.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Kremlin's foreign ministry, as saying in Moscow on Friday that it seemed like the United States "is looking for a reason to stay", the Times pointed out.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow Friday, she said it appears to Moscow that the U.S.

"We will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date", said Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman.

"I can not share your confidence that they are leaving there because we never saw an official strategy", she added.

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