Withdrawal from Syria has begun

Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

The US-led coalition in Syria has begun withdrawing its troops, a spokesman said Friday, less than a month after US President Donald Trump made his shock announcement.

The delay has restricted Turkey's ability to launch an offensive against the YPG, a group of Kurdish fighters it considers terrorists, but who served as allies to the USA coalition to defeat Islamic State.

"CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told AFP in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-jihadist force.

Earlier this week, however, United States national security adviser John Bolton said the USA would expect guarantees that the Kurds would be protected after American troops leave the area.

After media reports suggesting the departure of United States forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria. But the peace and stability of areas USA forces withdraw from "must be guaranteed", she added.

On Friday, Bolton said that the militaries of the U.S. and Turkey are set to continue negotiating on the Kurdish issue.

Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus regime, said it had the impression that the United States wanted to stay despite the announced withdrawal of USA troops, RIA news agency reported.

The start of the drawdown coincided with a Middle East tour by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who insisted in Cairo on Thursday that the withdrawal would go ahead despite widespread criticism.

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 USA withdrawal plans.

Turkey regards the Kurd-dominated YPG units as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. The withdrawal benefits Syrian President Bashar Assad and his worldwide backers, Russian Federation and Iran, who are primed to move into the region to fill a vacuum left behind by the Americans.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug", the minister said in southern Sanliurfa province.

Though Mr Trump has said he wants a withdrawal to be coordinated, gradual and "prudent", observers have stressed that his announcement was having the same impact as a withdrawal itself.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow Friday, she said it appears to Moscow that the U.S.

USA defense officials revealed that the number of American troops in Syria might actually increase slightly to help protect the final pulling out process, expected to take between four to six months.

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