Thu, 21 Mar 2019

Syria troop withdrawal initiated by U.S.-led coalition

By Sheetal Sukhija, Missouri State News
13 Jan 2019, 02:14 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - A spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria has confirmed that the process of withdrawing troops from the country had already begun.

In a statement making the announcement, Colonel Sean Ryan said, "The coalition has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements."

The Britain-based war monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an update that the withdrawal appeared to have begun on Thursday night.

The war monitoring group said that a convoy of about ten armored vehicles and some trucks pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, heading for and into Iraq.

The confirmation comes a month after the U.S. President Donald Trump made the shocking announcement that he had decided to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

While the announcement made in December 2018 stunned allies and even top U.S. defence officials in the Pentagon, since then, the potential U.S. pullout has been clouded by mixed messages from Washington.

Following Trump's announcement, the U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit in protest.

Further, allies that have joined the U.S. in its fight against ISIS in Syria expressed their shock at the U.S. President's sudden announcement.

The announcement by the U.S.-led coalition comes merely days after the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reassure allies in the Middle East of Washingtons commitment to regional security.

Following Trump's announcement last month, Turkey clarified that it was aiming to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

However, responding to Turkey's threats to attack the Kurds, the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested that protecting Washingtons Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the U.S. withdrawal.

Turkey views the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

PKK has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

Now, with the U.S. deciding to pull its troops from the region, the Kurdish groups that control the north, have turned to Moscow and Damascus to strike a political deal and stave off Turkey.

Meanwhile, Russia along with the Iran-backed Syrian government said that it now had a huge chance to recover a huge chunk of territory.

Yet, the decision to withdraw troops by the U.S. has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war.

On Saturday, U.S. defence officials clarified that the withdrawal began with shipments of military equipment.

They added that over the next few weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart the war-torn region.

Speaking to reporters in the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "The fact that a couple thousand uniformed personnel in Syria will be withdrawing is a tactical change. It doesnt materially alter our capacity to continue to perform the military actions that we need to perform."

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