Pompeo ‘optimistic’ Syria Kurds, Turkey can be protected

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

At present, there are some 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria, most of the Marines and U.S. Army soldiers, deployed in the northeast sector and the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the U.S. president's announcement" of a full troop withdrawal from Syria last month, he said.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack Kurdish fighters, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

She told the same briefing that Moscow had the impression that the United States wanted to stay in Syria despite U.S. President Donald Trump last month unexpectedly announcing a U.S. withdrawal.

So far, senior defense officials have declined to provide a timeline of when troops might start coming home.

"That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

After media reports suggesting the departure of U.S. forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the Hasakah province in northeastern Syria.

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A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is now flushing out the very last pockets of land controlled by the jihadists in the Euphrates River Valley.

Trump's hasty announcement in December of a USA exit from the war-torn country has caused confusion among allies and adversaries alike, and it also led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

On the same day, however, Mr Pompeo said in a speech that "when America retreats, chaos often follows".

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast. That earned a stiff rebuke from President Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist announcement and has repeatedly threatened to move into Syria to create a buffer zone along the border.

Democratic Party legislator Adam Schiff on Friday lashed out at the Donald Trump administration for its decision to pull the U.S. out of Syria.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States, and on the other the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian regime sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory. "The Trump Administration's foreign policy is as deeply flawed in its conception as it is dangerously incompetent in its execution", Schiff, who is the chairperson of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, tweeted.

"On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone".

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