US official says withdrawal from Syria has begun: report

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PHOTO: AFP

After days of back and forth over US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out American troops from Syria, a US military official said on Friday the process of withdrawal has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” has started.

“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” the Baghdad-based official said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles had left or whether any troops had been withdrawn.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began on Thursday night.

It said a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria’s northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

On Sunday, US national security adviser John Bolton said American troops would not leave northeastern Syria until ISIL is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slowdown in Trump’s initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a tour of the region, has also sought to reassure the Kurdish militia that they will be safe after US troops withdraw from the country.

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