US Exit from Syria Starts with Equipment, Not Troops

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The U.S. decision to withdraw its forces from Syria, first announced by President Donald Trump last month, has caused confusion among U.S. allies and partners in the fight against Islamic State militants.

President Donald Trump announced last month the decision to withdraw 2,000 United States troops who have deployed to Syria in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, which have spearheaded the fight against the IS group.

The US withdrawal from Syria has officially begun, a military official has said. It says about 10 armored vehicles and other equipment arrived at a US base in al-Rmelan, in al-Hasaka province.

There has been confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order amid threats from Turkey to attack the Kurdish fighters, who are seen by Ankara as terrorists due to their ties to insurgents within Turkey.

The military is carrying out the withdrawal under an order signed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis just before he left office December 31.

United States troops have begun withdrawing from Syria, compounding weeks of confusion over Donald Trump's policy in the Middle East and raising fears over the fate of America's Kurdish allies.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Masoud Barzani leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the province's capital Arbil during a Middle East tour, on January 9, 2019.

There are about 2,000 USA troops in Syria.

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"It doesn't materially alter our capacity to continue to perform the military actions that we need to perform", Pompeo told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Residents near border-crossing points typically used by US forces moving in and out of Syria from Iraq told Reuters they had seen no obvious or large-scale movements following Friday's announcement. On Thursday, Turkey's foreign minister said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already made the decision to launch an offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria, and that it would go ahead regardless of the presence of American forces.

Military planners are still working on the basis that all troops will be withdrawn from Syria.

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.

US airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

She charged that the USA appeared to be "looking for a reason to stay" in Syria. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the US pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

The U.S. has about 5,200 troops in Iraq to assist its security forces, and Trump has given no indication he intends to withdraw them any time soon.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now on an eight-day tour to try to ease concerns about Trump's policies in the region.

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