US Begins Pulling Troops Out of Syria

1 2018 Turkish and U.S. troops conduct joint patrols around the Syrian town of Manbij as part of an agreement that aimed to ease tensions between the two NATO allies

1 2018 Turkish and U.S. troops conduct joint patrols around the Syrian town of Manbij as part of an agreement that aimed to ease tensions between the two NATO allies

"We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again", Bolton said when meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed.

The fate of US troops in Syria was further muddled Tuesday when Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Bolton made a "grave mistake" when he demanded Turkey pledge protection of the American supported Kurdish fighters. He said the US will not discuss a specific timeline, locations or troop movements out of concern for operational security.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

This is a developing story.

In this Saturday, March 31, 2018 file photo, a convoy of USA troops drive along a road leading to the front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria.

The withdrawal began Thursday night, according to the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington's war against Islamic State but is considered by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

On Friday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said those talks will continue into next week.

They also did not say what part of Syria it came from, though it is expected the drawdown would begin in the country's north. Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them, declaring in a tweet the defeat of ISIS, sent shockwaves across the region and led to the resignation of U.S. Defence Minister James Mattis and the top U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

In his speech at the American University in Cairo on Thursday, the secretary of state said the U.S. would continue working with coalition partners to defeat ISIS and would continue air strikes against terrorist targets in the region. The lira fell sharply Tuesday on fears of renewed U.S.

The White House may not have yet publicly altered its criteria for withdrawal, but certainly something has changed.

While the US military pullout is now officially underway it has made a slow start. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the U.S.is a "force for good" in the Middle East.

Government forces will liberate the entirety of Syria even if Trump reneges on his announced pull-out, a source in the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told Sputnik correspondent Suliman Mulhem on Friday. On Dec. 23, he said there would be a "slow & highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area".

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