American troops start withdrawing from Syria, official says

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An American military official says the USA -led military coalition has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against ISIS in Syria.

The day after Trump's tweet, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned, saying that Trump as commander-in-chief deserved a defense secretary whose views are "better aligned" with his own.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements", he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

National Security Advisor John Bolton appeared to contradict the White House Sunday when he said the USA 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.

On Friday, Bolton said that the militaries of the U.S. and Turkey are set to continue negotiating on the Kurdish issue.

An announcement Friday that the US troop withdrawal from Syria has begun came amid a precautionary buildup of USA forces in the region and renewed threats from Turkey about attacking the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.

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

"We have no problems with our Kurdish brothers, Arab brothers in Syria, Turkmens and other ethnic and religious groups", the DM explained, "Our only targets are the terrorists ISIS and PKK/YPG".

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Opponents of the move claim that the pullout will allow Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime to expand their influence in the region.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed the comments, calling them a "serious mistake".

"Many details (are) still to be worked out but I'm optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome", he said.

Pompeo's remarks follow tensions between the United States and Turkey over the fate of Washington's allies in the fight against ISIS.

But, he added, "we also know that those who are fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

A spokesman for the US -led coalition said Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 that the process of withdrawal in Syria has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.

The Pentagon first gave word of the start of the withdrawal late Thursday.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that territory previously controlled by the United States should be transferred to the Syrian government."In this regard, establishing dialog between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance. After all, the Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society", Zakharova said.

On a visit to Turkish troops stationed near the Syrian border Friday, Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, reiterated that Ankara is "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and said military preparations were ongoing.

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