U.S. official says troop withdrawal from Syria has started

1 2018 Turkish and U.S. troops conduct joint patrols around the Syrian town of Manbij as part of an agreement that aimed to ease tensions between the two NATO allies

Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said the process of removing troops for the country had started.

Observers said the threat of a Turkish operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria, where around 2,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed, was the reason for U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

Representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a military coalition dominated by Kurdish fighters, declined to comment Friday, suggesting instead that the US military should explain its plans.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements".

This is a developing story. Following the announcement, he was forced to reiterate the U.S.'s commitment to its more substantial troop to neighboring Iraq, where the US -led coalition is also fighting ISIS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles and some trucks pulled out from the north-eastern town of Rmeilan on Thursday night and crossed the border into Iraq.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the United States withdrawal, drawing a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments "a serious mistake".

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Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group.

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the US -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.

They also did not say what part of Syria it came from, though it is expected the drawdown would begin in the country's north.

Turkey dismissed that condition, and Pompeo said the withdrawal would continue. He spoke before the announcement on the US withdrawal and did not address it. They described the draw-down at the base, held by US forces for the past two years, as "slow and steady".

The U.S. has started "the process of deliberate withdrawal from Syria". Washington is also facing criticism in Turkey for sending conflicting messages on its Syria policy.

The US president concluded: "Our troops are coming home!" Erdogan snubbed Bolton when he visited Ankara earlier this week, instead giving a political speech that criticized the national security adviser.

Ankara's anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any US withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG.

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