Published: Fri, January 11, 2019

U.S. Syria withdrawal officially underway, expected to take 3-4 months

U.S. Syria withdrawal officially underway, expected to take 3-4 months

On December 19, President Trump announced that the US would pull the estimated 2,000 troops it has stationed in Syria because the Islamic State had been defeated in the country.

The reference was to Bolton's remarks this week the United States would not exit Syria until Turkey promised not to target U.S. Kurdish partners.

The order to withdraw American troops from Syria had been signed, after President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart agreed to prevent a power vacuum in the wake of the controversial move.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the U.S. withdrawal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also sought to reassure the Kurds they will be safe after the US completely pulls out.

"We can see the way statements on the decision to withdraw forces are interpreted in various authoritative structures in the USA and which signals on this issue are coming from representatives of the administration itself", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told journalists on Wednesday, signaling that officials in Moscow are still attempting to interpret the variety of statements coming out of Washington.

But the Baghdad-based official did not give details and it is unclear how many vehicles or troop units had been withdrawn.

US Central Command has come up with an execution plan in order to safely withdraw troops there, officials tell CNN.

Giving a subsequent speech about broader USA policy in the Middle East at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said "now is the time" to bring America's forces out of Syria. The latter will no doubt prove the more hard objective to meet.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which had been moored in Crete, is leading a group of vessels towards the eastern Mediterranean to support the 2,000 U.S. troops as they leave the Kurdish-majority part of northeastern Syria, Pentagon officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Turkey views the US -backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

Syrian Kurds demonstrate against threats from Turkey to carry out a fresh offensive following the US decision to withdraw their troops in the Syrian Kurdish-majority city Qamishli, on December 28, 2018. 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. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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