USA troops begin to withdraw from Syria, report says

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Masoud Barzani leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the province's capital Arbil during a Middle East tour

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesperson for the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said the USA started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria".

The fate of USA 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. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements", Colonel Sean Ryan said, according to Reuters. It said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

Kurdish-led groups who control swathes of northern Syria fear an attack from Turkey in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from their region.

But following a backlash from Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump said the troops would be withdrawn "slowly".

More than 2,000 USA troops are serving in Syria.

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.

Earlier this week, Bolton called security assurances for the US -backed Kurdish forces a necessary condition for the withdrawal of USA forces from Syria.

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Syria troop withdrawal under way, says US-led coalition
The reference was to Bolton's remarks this week the United States would not exit Syria until Turkey promised not to target U.S. This lack of coherent planning continues close to a moth after the president's December 19 announcement of the withdrawal.

19 announcement that he was moving to disentangle USA troops from Syria's complex battlefield sparked fears that the move might undo efforts to defeat the Islamic State's final remnant in Syria.

Pompeo said Friday that Washington recognized "the Turkish people's right and Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

Turkey regards the Kurd-dominated YPG units as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States, and on the other the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian regime sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory. He added that Ankara's mission in northern Syria is to purge terrorist groups from the entire area, not only Manbij.

The Pentagon stressed it would not telegraph its troop movements or give timelines for when they may leave Syria.

Mr Pompeo said he had spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, adding: "Many details (are) still to be worked out but I'm optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome". Trump has asserted that the IS group in Syria is defeated, but others have said a continued US military presence is necessary to prevent a resurgence of the group.

The speech sought to lay out the Trump administration's strategy for the Middle East and criticised former president Barack Obama, without naming him, for "fundamental misunderstandings" about the Middle East.

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