Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

US pullout from Syria begins amid confusion over Pentagon timetable

Earlier on December 19, U.S. President Donald Trump announced an immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria but later said that he did not have a specific time limit for the pullout, signaling to an extension of the presence of U.S. troops on the grounds.

The official said the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls the start of a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where some 2,000 troops have been working with a coalition for Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

U.S. defence officials said the withdrawal was only of certain types of gear, and not troops.

Hours earlier, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the USA -led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started.

"For purposes of operational security, we will not discuss specific troop movements or timelines", he added.

Also citing unnamed Pentagon officials, NYT corrected its Syria withdrawal report Friday, from suggesting USA troops had begun leaving to acknowledging that only "planning has begun".

Later in the day, however, some of those outlets conceded that the spokesman did not indicate whether any American service members were being pulled out or whether the US military was carrying out other activities that could be considered a withdrawal.

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Turkey says the weapons are ultimately transferred to the PKK - designated as a terror group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union - and used against Turkey. This, she said, includes putting an end to the Turkish threats and fully eradicating the Islamic State group and its sleeper cells. The plan hinges on Turkish cooperation to secure a swathe of northeast Syria as the United States departs. US Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned soon after the announcement. His statements appeared to contradict those made earlier by Trump.

Trump's hasty announcement in December of a US exit from the war-torn country has caused confusion among allies and adversaries alike, and it also led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

After initially tweeting about the decision to bring back USA troops "now", Trump this week said "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!"

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. A US troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and Syrian government troops on the other.

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

Since his surprise announcement last month, Trump has stressed any withdrawal would be coordinated, gradual and "prudent". Syria's deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday he was optimistic about renewed dialogue with the Kurds.

"We will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date", said Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman. She said Russian Federation has not seen public statements laying out the USA strategy in Syria and so can not be sure that the U.S.is serious about leaving.

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