Equipment, not troops being moved out of Syria: Pentagon

Equipment, not troops being moved out of Syria: Pentagon

Equipment, not troops being moved out of Syria: Pentagon

The first USA military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria in recent days, signaling the beginning of the drawdown ordered by President Donald Trump, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

Turkey's planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been publicly announced, 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, including troops to provide additional security. That followed by less than a month President Trump's announcement that he meant to pull out the roughly 2,000 American troops within 30 days.

That provoked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to snub Trump's national security adviser last week, after John Bolton had received a warm welcome by Israeli officials days before. Military planners are still working on the basis that all troops will be withdrawn from Syria.

After media reports suggesting the departure of U.S. forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria.

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.

Fighter jets and special forces have played a key role in efforts to claw back the territory lost to ISIS.

This move signals the beginning of the drawdown ordered by President Trump.

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 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. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and sees Washington's support for it against Islamic State as a betrayal.

They have also argued that it would further allow Syrian regime ally Iran to extend its influence across the country and potentially threaten Israel.

The People's Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK group which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has already started cosying up to Damascus and its Russian sponsor. He spoke before the announcement on the US withdrawal and did not address it.

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