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Withdrawal of US troops from Syria begins


About 10 armored vehicles were seen pulling out of Rmeilan Thursday night

Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S.-led military coalition has begun withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. defense official confirmed Friday.

The U.S. has started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, told the Associated Press without further elaboration.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements," Ryan said in a statement to the AP.

The withdrawal follows the drawdown ordered by President Donald Trump after he proclaimed the defeat of ISIS in a tweet Dec. 19. Trump's decision drew intense criticism that the U.S. was abandoning its local Kurdish allies and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS.

About 2,000 U.S. troops are in Syria.

When did the withdrawal start?

About 10 armored vehicles in addition to some engineering machines pulled out of Rmeilan, Syria, Thursday night headed for Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict.

The withdrawal comes amid a escalating tensions between the Syrian Kurds and the Turkish government, which has promised an imminent attack.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted, "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!"

What else?

National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that U.S. troops would not leave the region until ISIS is defeated and the Kurdish allied fighters are protected.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also offered reassurance for the safety of the Kurds.

"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected," Pompeo said during his tour of the Middle East this week, according to the AP.

U.S. troops have been involved in the Syrian conflict since 2014.

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