US starts withdrawing supplies, but not troops, from Syria

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"However, we will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date".

The announcement comes a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a military operation in northern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, which is allied with the USA, is not dependent on the withdrawal of American forces.

On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that there are some elements among the Kurds in Syria who pose a legitimate national security threat to Turkey and that hopes to have a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the situation in Syria, a statement released by the senator said Saturday.

"We are not withdrawing troops at this stage", one U.S. defence official said.

"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equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn.

Late Friday, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr Sean Robertson said that Operation Inherent Resolve "is implementing the orderly withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria within a framework coordinated across the United States government".

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the US -backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.

Trump's hasty announcement in December of a USA 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.

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 views the US-backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

Critics of Trump's decision, including within his own Republican party, have said a precipitous withdrawal would shatter United States policy in Syria and allow ISIS to rebuild. The withdrawal benefits Syrian President Bashar Assad and his global backers, Russian Federation and Iran, who are primed to move into the region to fill a vacuum left behind by the Americans.

Though Mr Trump has said he wants a withdrawal to be coordinated, gradual and "prudent", observers have stressed that his announcement was having the same impact as a withdrawal itself.

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