U.S. begins pulling gear from Syria, but not yet troops

‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal

US withdrawal from Syria begins after contradictory messages from John Bolton and Mike Pompeo

When Pompeo said earlier this month that the US wants to ensure "the Turks don't slaughter the Kurds", Turkey denounced Pompeo, saying he exhibited "a worrying lack of information".

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates, Mr Pompeo said he thought it would be possible to reach an agreement which would allow the Turks to defend themselves from terror threats while protecting Kurds - who have been fighting alongside U.S. troops - against the so-called Islamic State group. Washington and Ankara also sparred over the fate of American Presbyterian minister Andrew Brunson, who was convicted in Turkey of aiding terrorism, and who Ankara was forced to extradite after Trump exerted unprecedented economic pressure.

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he said.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed the comments, calling them a "serious mistake". It also prompted the resignation of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. Sen.

Erdogan has said his military is prepared to attack swaths of Syria under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

USA national security adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a precondition of the United States withdrawal.

It was announced that the 2,000 troops in Syria would be withdrawn over the course of 60 to 100 days, but officials including US national security adviser John Bolton have said the US States will not leave until IS is defeated.

Turkey already occupies and effectively runs local affairs in vast territories in northwestern Syria, including Afrin which came under an intense Turkish military campaign previous year that resulted in thousands of deaths and displacement of some 160,000 locals as Erdogan promised to give the region back to the "rightful owners, Arabs".

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 the Islamic State group in Syria.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the United States withdrawal plans.

"Today, we discussed the latest developments and the steps that should be taken [in Syria]", Cavusoglu said on Saturday at an event in Turkey's southern Antalya province.

Operation Olive Branch was conducted by Turkish Armed Forces-backed Syrian opposition group Free Syrian Army (FSA) starting on January 20, 2018 to remove the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Unit (YPG) elements from Afrin in northwestern Syria following the first operation conducted in northern Syria in 2016, the Operation Euphrates Shield that targeted Daesh terrorists in Syria's Al-Bab and Jarablus.

A Kurdish politician told Reuters last week the Kurds had presented Moscow with a roadmap for a deal with Damascus.

After speaking to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Pompeo said an agreement was a work in progress but can be achieved in a way that allows the Turks to defend their country while leaving alone Kurds who do not pose a threat. But that time frame has since been extended several times.

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