Led coalition says Syria troop withdrawal has begun

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

Under the current regional circumstances - including the potential United States pullout from northern Syria and Turkey's threats to launch a military operation - the Kurdish fighters have little leverage and will have to reduce their demands, according to Ibrahim Kaban, a researcher at the Kurdish Center for Studies based in Germany.

The United States' withdrawal from Syria is getting under way but, at least for now, it does not involve some 2,000 US troops on the ground, who are aiding in the fight against the Islamic State terror group. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements", Colonel Sean Ryan said.

About 2,000 US troops are in Syria.

A second U.S. defence official said the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal.

Robertson, in his statement, said the coalition had carried out "logistical measures" to support a withdrawal but did not enter into details.

This dispute with Turkey over America's Kurdish allies has overshadowed Mr Pompeo's sweeping Middle East trip.

On Dec. 28, at the Kurds' request, the Syrian government sent forces to stop what appeared to be an imminent Turkish offensive against the Kurds around Syria's Manbij area.

US troops are still working with a partner known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to stamp out the last IS holdouts in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border. Turkey views the dominant Syrian Kurdish groups as a national security threat.

Cavusoglu's remarks followed a visit to Ankara by Trump's national security advisor John Bolton and other United States officials who met with at best an unwelcoming treatment by the Turks, including Erdogan who refused to receive them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also sought to reassure the Kurds they will be safe after the USA completely pulls out.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, holds a joint press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, at the Sheraton Grand in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.




Washington, however, considers the group as an effective force in the fight against IS. The comments angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then refused to meet with Bolton during a visit to Turkey.

"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 Kurdish region, after talks in Baghdad.

PKK is a Kurdish underground operating inside Turkey, YPG is a defensive army in Syria, and the Turks are not interested in these distinctions. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart even as the White House vows to keep pressure on the Islamic State group.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the USA withdrawal plans.

"In this regard, establishing dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance".

Operation Olive Branch was conducted by Turkish Armed Forces-backed Syrian opposition group Free Syrian Army (FSA) starting on January 20, 2018 to remove the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Unit (YPG) elements from Afrin in northwestern Syria following the first operation conducted in northern Syria in 2016, the Operation Euphrates Shield that targeted Daesh terrorists in Syria's Al-Bab and Jarablus.

"We will very soon mobilize to eliminate the terrorist organization in Syria", Erdogan said.

The healthcare worker noted that she attempted to escape several times and was left with no courage as she failed, but she succeeded with the help of Turkey and was reunited with her family thanks to Turkey.

Erdogan also warned that preparations were complete for a military operation against the YPG.

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