Pompeo discusses USA drawdown in Syria with Turkish counterpart

Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

The U.S. -led coalition in Syria is beginning to withdraw troops from the country.

Turkey on Saturday welcomed the latest statement made by Washington's top diplomat over Ankara's right to defend itself from "terrorists" after the USA withdraws from Syria.

A spokesman for the coalition said it "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". Once the troops are gone, the US will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the IS group a lasting defeat.

Pompeo's remarks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, come after the Pentagon announced Friday that "the process of our deliberate withdrawal" had begun.

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preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn.

Over the intervening years the number of U.S. troops in Syria has increased, and a network of bases and airfields has been established in an arc across the north-eastern part of the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the notheastern province of Hasakeh.

Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he is confident that the Trump administration and Turkey can agree a way to protect the Kurdish fighters in Syria after US troops leave the country.

Pompeo said Friday that Washington recognized "the Turkish people's right and Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists". Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the USA pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Turkish troops along the Syrian border Friday, and vowed to eliminate the Kurdish forces in Syria.

National Security Advisor John Bolton appeared to contradict the White House Sunday when he said the USA withdrawal from Syria would not be immediate, but the Pentagon announced Thursday that without receiving any new direction, it's moving forward with the mission.

But, he added, "we also know that those are fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

Regarding the SDF's future, the Kurdish researcher said the Syrian government will probably depend on the Kurdish fighters to maintain local security in northern Syria by enlisting them within the regular forces.

Israeli officials have expressed worries that the pullout could give Iran greater leeway to entrench itself militarily in Syria.

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