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US Begins Pulling Troops Out of Syria

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

The coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," said Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S. coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements."

There are roughly 2,000 U.S. military personnel in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that the withdrawal began late Thursday, when about 10 armored vehicles and other equipment pulled out from a U.S. base in Rmeilan in Hassakeh province. The group also is reporting there were coalition reinforcements that arrived at different bases Thursday, which is consistent with what VOA has learned from a source.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Friday in a radio interview that talks between the U.S. military and its Turkish counterparts regarding the Kurds fighting the Islamic State in Syria will continue next week in an effort to reach an agreement both countries accept. Earlier this week, Bolton's calls for the protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a pre-condition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, causing the president to refuse to meet with the U.S. official.

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington's war against Islamic State, but Ankara considers it to be a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Bolton said in the interview that he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo understood Turkey had committed "not to harm the Kurds who had fought with us against ISIS."

"What we're still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen. And we're hoping those discussions, which will continue next week, will produce results that are acceptable on both sides," Bolton said.

Erdogan also warned that preparations were complete for a military operation against the YPG.

"We will very soon mobilize to eliminate the terrorist organization in Syria," he said.

"If there are other terrorists who would attempt to intervene in our intervention then it is our duty to eliminate them as well," Erdogan added. Turkish forces have been massing for weeks along the Syrian border.

Meanwhile, Russia claimed earlier this week it had started doing military patrols in Manbij, tweeting out video, although sources say the Russians likely are not in Manbij proper.

Source: Voice of America