Trump Warns Turkey Not to Harm Kurds After U.S. Quits Syria

Trump Warns Turkey Not to Harm Kurds After U.S. Quits Syria

Trump Warns Turkey Not to Harm Kurds After U.S. Quits Syria

The comments from Hulusi Akar, on an unannounced visit to inspect troops stationed near the Syrian border directly opposite territory held by the US -backed Kurdish YPG, appeared to be aimed at both Washington and its Kurdish allies.

While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the USA -led coalition against Islamic State began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said.

Trump's decision to withdraw all of the 2,000 U.S. troops from the war-torn country prompted shockwaves among USA senior officials and United States allies in December.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been publicly announced, provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is under way and that an unspecified number of additional US troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process, including troops to provide additional security.

Senior US officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

"That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

Earlier this week, the US national security adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slowdown in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom based war monitor, reported earlier that the US-led coalition in Syria had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the Hasakeh province of northeastern Syria.

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The battle against die-hard jihadists in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely however.

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.

But the announcement, coming days after Mr. Bolton's remarks, added to a climate of chaos surrounding Washington's policy on Syria at a time when Turkey has threatened to invade the country.

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.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, blasted the withdrawal plans.

"On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone".

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