United States troops begin withdrawing from Syria

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

As part of his trip he is said to be promoting a US-backed initiative to form what some have termed an "Arab NATO", which would bring the region together in a military alliance to counter threats from Iran.

America's operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country were to continue during the withdrawal process.

"For purposes of operational security, we will not discuss specific troop movements or timelines", he added.

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.

But following a backlash from Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump said the troops would be withdrawn "slowly".

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

After media reports suggesting the departure of usa forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria. It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack. Both had declared that the U.S. would not leave unless ISIS was entirely defeated and Turkey agreed not to attack Syrian Kurds.

US forces have started their withdrawal from Syria, initiating the start of a troop reduction that earlier this week was cast into doubt by Predient Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton.

"We recognize the Turkish people's right to defend their country from terrorists, but we also know that those. who are not terrorists and fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected", Pompeo told reporters.

The US military has begun moving non-essential gear out of Syria but is not withdrawing troops for now, defence officials said Friday as uncertainty grew over America's planned pullout from the battered nation.

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

"Teaming with the Kearsarge ARG, we look forward to training with allied and partner military forces while also providing versatile, amphibious response options to our combatant commanders as we face myriad global challenges", Col. Michael Perez, commander of the 22nd MEU, said in a statement last month.

The Defense Department wants to show progress to Trump and the public that they are following through on the President's orders to withdraw troops even though Bolton has indicated troops could remain for some time. The first of those criteria is unmet, but feasible, as the terror group now holds only a small patch of land in Syria. The circumstances could prove especially hard, experts say, as Washington faces a partial government shutdown with acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan only 10 days into his new job.

Turkey, however, regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group and has vowed to crush it.

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