Turkey Repeats Call on U.S. to Withdraw Kurdish YPG From Manbij, Syria

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The U.S. has "begun the process" of a deliberate troop withdrawal from Syria, according to a statement Friday from a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

On December 19, President Trump announced that the US would pull the estimated 2,000 troops it has stationed in Syria because the Islamic State had been defeated in the country.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that, "Out of concern for operational security, we will not be discussing specific troop movements or timelines, but we do expect to provide a periodic update on progress regarding percentages of equipment removed from Syria".

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.

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 ISIS in Syria.

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

National security adviser John Bolton traveled to Israel and Turkey, where he said he would seek assurances from Turkey that the Kurds would be protected and pledged that the USA would ensure that ISIS is defeated.

Speaking in Egypt Thursday, US 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.

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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.

A USA official told ABC News that in recent days military equipment has been moved out of Syria into Iraq. But determining what the US plan for withdrawing from Syria is has become a complicated task for many.

USA forces' vehicles and structures are seen on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on December 26, 2018.

The White House has not yet publicly altered it's most recent criteria, those announced by Bolton a week ago: that ISIS must be defeated and the Kurdish forces' security guaranteed before the American troops all come out.

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. A USA troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other. Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all US forces left.

The challenge for the United States will be to strike a deal with Turkey's government that ensures the YPG militia, that was so invaluable to Washington over the past handful of years, is protected when the withdrawal is complete.

Ankara's anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any USA withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG. If not, the Trump administration would be accused of abandoning an ally to a grim fate.

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