U.S. Military Moving Equipment Out of Syria as Pullout Begins

Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

U.S. Military Moving Equipment Out of Syria as Pullout Begins

He added that the withdrawal of USA troops from Syria is a "tactical change" and does not alter US military capacity to counter ISIL and Iran.

Seeking to quell concern about the USA troop withdrawal from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday described the American exit as a "tactical change" in military strategy that wouldn't deter efforts to defeat ISIS or hurt US interests in the region. A separate spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition declined to discuss timelines, locations and troop movements, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported.

Washington's top diplomat on Saturday said he was "optimistic" a way could be found to protect Syrian Kurds while allowing Turks to "defend their country from terrorists" despite a U.S. pullout from Syria.

USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that equipment was being moved out of Syria, a sign that despite mixed messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was proceeding apace.

Mr Pompeo said he had spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, adding: "Many details (are) still to be worked out but I'm optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome". These include troops to provide additional security. A convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, heading for and into Iraq.

The phone call came during Pompeo's nine-nation tour of the Middle East, which is aimed at reassuring allies following U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal decision from Syria.

America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said during a speech in Egypt.

Trump's decision to call back USA troops in Syria, who were first deployed in 2015, was followed a day later by the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who wrote a letter to the president saying he had the right to have a secretary of defense "whose views are better aligned with yours".

National Security Advisor John Bolton appeared to contradict the White House Sunday when he said the us withdrawal from Syria would not be immediate, but the Pentagon announced Thursday that without receiving any new direction, it's moving forward with the mission.

"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected", Pompeo said of the Kurds while visiting Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in Baghdad.

Washington, however, considers the group as an effective force in the fight against IS.

At their meeting in Sochi on September 17, 2018, Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to create a demilitarized zone by October 15 in the province of Idlib, 15-20 km deep along the engagement line of the Syrian government troops and the armed opposition.

PKK is a Kurdish underground operating inside Turkey, YPG is a defensive army in Syria, and the Turks are not interested in these distinctions.

Turkey already occupies and effectively runs local affairs in vast territories in northwestern Syria, including Afrin which came under an intense Turkish military campaign a year ago that resulted in thousands of deaths and displacement of some 160,000 locals as Erdogan promised to give the region back to the "rightful owners, Arabs".

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.

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