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US has begun troop withdrawal from Syria, official tells AP

Benjamin Harvey, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

ISTANBUL -- The U.S.-led coalition in Syria has begun to withdraw forces from the country in line with President Donald Trump's orders, the Associated Press reported on Friday, citing Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition against Islamic State.

Ryan declined to give a specific timeline for the withdrawal, citing operational security, AP reported. The news came after the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the withdrawal began on Thursday, with a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles and some trucks moving out of Rmeilan in Syria and relocating to Iraq.

Trump's initial call for a rapid exit from Syria has been opposed by many, including some in his own administration. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have both visited the region in the past week to talk with and reassure allies, and both have angered Turkey by saying that the U.S. would protect Kurdish fighters from the YPG group as it withdraws. Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization.

Turkey's top military commanders were on the Turkish-Syrian border to inspect troops that have been massing there in preparation for an operation against the YPG, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Friday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with Bolton in Ankara on Jan. 8 and said the same day that Turkey would move ahead with its plans to eradicate terrorist groups in Syria.

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