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'Yes, our troop withdrawal from Syria has started,' confirms USA

Yes, our troop withdrawal from Syria has started, confirms USA

Baghdad: After days of back and forth over US President Donald Trump's decision to pullout American troops from Syria, a US military official said Friday the process of withdrawal has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.

Col Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started.

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

There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles or whether any troop units had withdrawn.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night. It said a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement 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 the Islamic State group in Syria.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria. Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them, declaring in a tweet the defeat of IS, sent shockwaves across the region and a flurry of criticism from some of his generals and national security advisers, and led to the resignation of US Defense Minister James Mattis and the top US envoy to the anti-IS coalition. It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.

On Sunday, US national security adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slow-down in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

Agencies

Agencies

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