By Rodi Stated and Phil Stewart
QAMISHLI, Syria/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State added to confusion surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Syria on Friday by saying it had began the pullout course of, however officers later clarified that solely gear, not troops, have been being withdrawn.
President Donald Trump’s announcement final month that he had determined to withdraw the two,000 U.S. troops there shocked allies who’ve joined Washington within the battle in opposition to Islamic State militants in Syria.
Senior U.S. officers have been shocked too, amongst them Protection Secretary Jim Mattis, who give up in protest.
U.S. Colonel Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman, mentioned the coalition “has begun the method of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.”
“Out of concern for operational safety, we won’t talk about particular timelines, areas or troop actions,” Ryan mentioned.
After media studies suggesting the departure of U.S. forces had begun, the Pentagon later mentioned no troops had but withdrawn and burdened that the battle in opposition to Islamic State was persevering with as U.S.-backed forces attempt to seize the group’s final remaining pockets of territory in Syria.
“We’ll affirm that there was no redeployment of navy personnel from Syria thus far,” mentioned Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman.
U.S. officers, talking on situation of anonymity, confirmed that gear was being moved out of Syria, an indication that regardless of blended messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was continuing apace.
Robertson, in his assertion, mentioned the coalition had carried out “logistical measures” to assist a withdrawal however didn’t enter into particulars.
“The withdrawal relies on operational circumstances on the bottom, together with dialog with our allies and companions, and isn’t be topic to an arbitrary timeline,” he mentioned.
Residents close to border crossings which are sometimes utilized by U.S. forces going out and in of Syria from Iraq mentioned they’d seen no apparent or large-scale motion of U.S. floor forces on Friday.
Individually, Syrian state information company SANA mentioned Israeli warplanes fired various missiles towards the Damascus space on Friday, triggering Syrian air defenses that shot down most of them.
“The outcomes of the aggression thus far have been restricted to a strike on one of many warehouses at Damascus airport,” SANA quoted a navy supply as saying.
The U.S. determination has injected new uncertainty into the eight-year-long Syrian battle and spurred a flurry of contacts over how a ensuing safety vacuum can be crammed throughout a swathe of northern and jap Syria the place the U.S. forces are stationed.
On the one hand, Turkey goals to pursue a marketing campaign in opposition to Kurdish forces which have allied with the US, and on the opposite the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian authorities sees the prospect to recuperate an enormous chunk of territory.
U.S. nationwide safety adviser John Bolton advised on Tuesday that defending Washington’s Kurdish allies can be a precondition of the U.S. withdrawal. That drew a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who referred to as his feedback “a critical mistake”.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Center East this week to reassure allies of Washington’s dedication to regional safety, mentioned on Thursday the withdrawal wouldn’t be scuppered regardless of the Turkish threats.
The Kurdish teams that management the north have turned to Moscow and Damascus within the hope of putting a political deal that may stave off Turkey and protect their autonomy within the north.
Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in assist of the Damascus authorities, mentioned it had the impression that the US wished to remain regardless of the introduced withdrawal of U.S. troops, RIA information company reported.
RUSSIA URGES DAMASCUS-KURDISH DIALOGUE
Maria Zakharova, a Russian Overseas Ministry spokeswoman, mentioned it was necessary for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian authorities to begin speaking to one another in gentle of the U.S. withdrawal plans.
She additionally mentioned the territory beforehand managed by the US ought to be transferred to the Syrian authorities.
“On this regard, establishing dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus takes on specific significance. In any case, the Kurds are an integral a part of Syrian society,” Zakharova mentioned.
Turkey views the U.S.-backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Staff’ Social gathering (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, largely in southeastern areas close to Syria.
A Kurdish politician instructed Reuters final week the Kurds had introduced Moscow with a road-map for a cope with Damascus. Syria’s deputy international minister mentioned on Wednesday he was optimistic about renewed dialogue with the Kurds.
Overseas Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is a part of the U.S.-led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the US after strain from its allies.
“President Macron spoke to him (Trump) a number of occasions and evidently there was a change that I believe is constructive,” he mentioned in a tv interview on Thursday.
In a uncommon acknowledgment that French troops have been additionally in Syria, he mentioned they would go away when there’s a political resolution within the nation.
(Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, John Irish in Paris, Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Tom Perry and Phil Stewart; Enhancing by Angus MacSwan, James Dalgleish & Kim Coghill)