Syria conflict: Pompeo 'optimistic' on deal to protect Kurds

‘We Don’t Take Orders From Bolton’: Pentagon Plans Syria Withdrawal

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.

USA troops have been involved in the Syrian conflict since 2014.

Mr Trump initially signalled a rapid withdrawal from Syria and United States officials said they expected troops to be out with 30 days. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements".

The United States military on Friday began moving non-essential gear out of Syria, but will not withdraw troops immediately, AFP reported, citing American defense officials.

Another complication is the fate of hundreds of foreign IS fighters being held in Syria. Pompeo said the meeting would "focus on Middle East stability and peace, freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence".

The People's Protection Units, or YPG - a major component of the SDF - is regarded by Ankara as an offshoot of the PKK Kurdish militant group which Turkey calls a terrorist organisation.

Turkey already occupies and effectively runs local affairs in vast territories in northwestern Syria, including Afrin which came under an intense Turkish military campaign past year that resulted in thousands of deaths and displacement of some 160,000 locals as Erdogan promised to give the region back to the "rightful owners, Arabs".

Mr Bolton was on a visit to Ankara to seek guarantees over the Kurdish fighters, but President Erdogan declined to meet him. "Our only targets are terrorists, Daesh [Islamic State] and PKK/YPG", Akar said.

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Turkey considers many of Syria's Kurdish groups to be terrorists and has pledged to attack them.

The UAE's ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, said Mr Pompeo's speech had reinforced a fundamental pillar of American foreign policy, that "America's engagement in the Middle East is critical to US and global security and prosperity", and "clearly highlighted the most pressing threats to regional and global order - Iranian aggression and extremism". Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

US troops are still working with a partner known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to stamp out the last IS holdouts in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border.

Foreign allies, including the Kurdish-led force that has spearheaded Washington's fight against the Islamic State, say they had not received warning about the withdrawal announcement, and administration officials initially offered differing timetables for its completion.

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.

The military is carrying out the withdrawal under an order signed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis just before he left office December 31.

Pompeo said Trump considers the kingdom a "key ally" for the US and their partnership will keep going.

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