U.S. Military Moving Equipment Out of Syria as Pullout Begins

Syria troop withdrawal under way, says US-led coalition

US-led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

The U.S. military has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. defense official confirmed to CBS News on Friday, saying it was expected to take between 90 and 120 days.

The U.S. started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", said Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

The withdrawal appeared to have begun Thursday night, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through activists on the ground.

The surprise move comes amid conflicting statements over when a withdrawal would begin and at what pace since President Donald Trump abruptly announced the US would leave last month.

The U.S. -led coalition in Syria is beginning to remove troops from Syria.

Speaking in Egypt Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the troop pullout from Syria would go ahead as he urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

Recent reports have indicated the USA is considering leaving some troops in place at the al-Tanf base in southern Syria, which is seen as a key bulwark against Iran.

Giving a subsequent speech about broader USA policy in the Middle East at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said "now is the time" to bring America's forces out of Syria.

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Defense officials in the Pentagon told The Wall Street Journal they haven't received any new directives, and until they do, will move forward with the original withdrawal plans.

Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday and "agreed to ensure coordination between their countries' military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria", the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency", Trump tweeted that day, adding that USA troops would leave in the next 30 days.

The comments were an example of the perspective that many Russian officials hold, which posits that the U.S.is an imperialist power working to maintain global hegemony.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have partnered with the United States, and on the other the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian government sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory. The latter will no doubt prove the more hard objective to meet.

Turkey views the USA -backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the USA beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision".

Shortly after Trump's announcement, some USA officials began to walk it back. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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