Led coalition begins withdrawal from Syria

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

The U.S. -led coalition in Syria is beginning to withdraw troops from the country.

Washington's top diplomat on Saturday said he was "optimistic" a way could be found to protect Syrian Kurds while allowing Turks to "defend their country from terrorists" despite a USA pullout from Syria.

President Donald Trump announced last month the decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops who have deployed to Syria in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, which have spearheaded the fight against the IS group.

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

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He said the United States envoy for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, had travelled to northeast Syria this week and would soon go to Ankara for talks, including on moving forward a UN-led political process to end the eight-year long conflict in Syria.

"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equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn. In public statements, he had repeatedly suggested that he wanted to bring American troops back home.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said sources in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah reported the departure of about 10 armored vehicles from a military base in the town of Rmelan late Thursday.

President Trump blindsided worldwide and regional allies, such as the YPG, on December 19 when he announced he would bring USA troops home.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he is confident that the Trump administration and Turkey can agree a way to protect the Kurdish fighters in Syria after US troops leave the country. Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group. However, Ankara asked for more time and for postponing the start of joint patrols in Idlib due to its inability to provide security guarantees.

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

"Even when there was no such decision [by Trump], our President said we are going to enter the region east of the Euphrates", Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told privately-owned NTV.

Earlier this week, Bolton's calls for the protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a condition for a Syrian withdrawal angered Turkey. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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After announcing the pullout, Trump tweeted that Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan "has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of (the Islamic State) in Syria", adding that the Turkish strongman was "a man who can do it".

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