United States withdraws some military equipment from Syria

Blanche Robertson
January 11, 2019

President Donald Trump's promised withdrawal of American troops from Syria has begun, the US-led coalition against ISIS announced on Friday.

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday that it suspected the US government was really intent on maintaining a military force inside Syria indefinitely, in spite of the pullout officially being announced by the Americans.

"I can confirm the movement of equipment from Syria", the official told Agence France-Presse.

United States troops have begun withdrawing from Syria, compounding weeks of confusion over Donald Trump's policy in the Middle East and raising fears over the fate of America's Kurdish allies. 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.

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.

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 the Islamic State group in Syria. It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.

CNN reported earlier that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has identified ships, aircraft and ground units that will be used in the operation.

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Trump's decision to remove troops from Syria sent shockwaves through the embattled region and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis. Reports suggested that Turkey was preparing a military attack against the Kurds in Syria, who Erdogan views as an extension of a Kurdish group in Turkey that the government has been battling for decades.

Shortly after Trump's announcement, some USA officials began to walk it back.

The US president concluded: "Our troops are coming home!"

The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talks to Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (from left to right) ahead of the meeting on Syria in Moscow, on December 29, 2018.

The fate of USA troops in Syria was further muddled Tuesday when Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Bolton made a "grave mistake" when he demanded Turkey pledge protection of the American supported Kurdish fighters. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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