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US official says troop withdrawal from Syria has started

AP  |  Baghdad 

After days of back and forth over US Donald Trump's decision to pullout American troops from Syria, a US said Friday the process of withdrawal has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.

Col Sean Ryan, for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started.

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

There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles or whether any troop units had withdrawn.

The Britain-based for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night. It said a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of into

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

There are 2,000 American troops in Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them, declaring in a tweet the defeat of IS, sent shockwaves across the region and a flurry of criticism from some of his generals and national security advisers, and led to the resignation of US and the top US to the anti-IS coalition. It also led to major criticism that the US was abandoning its local Kurdish allies amid Turkish threats of an imminent attack.

On Sunday, US said American troops will not leave until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slow-down in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

Mike Pompeo, who is on a tour of the region, has also sought to reassure the Kurds that they will be safe after U.S. troops withdraw from the country.

"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 of the Kurds while visiting Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in

After initially tweeting about the decision to bring back US troops "now," Trump this week said "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!" Kurdish officials, meanwhile, have demanded clarifications from the US over its intentions.

A US troop pullout leaves the Kurds exposed to Turkish attacks from one side, and troops on the other. The withdrawal Syrian and his international backers, and Iran, who are primed to move into the region to fill a vacuum left behind by the Americans.

US troops have been involved in Syria's war since 2014 when the first elite force arrived in the country to advise Kurdish-led fighters who were involved in battles against the Islamic State group.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 11 2019. 17:40 IST