Syria withdrawal already under way

U.S. soldiers near the front line in northern Syria

"Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see", Bolton said Sunday, which struck a different tone than the December 19 announcement White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made, in which she said the USA had already begun pulling American troops.

The surprise move comes amid conflicting statements over when a withdrawal would begin and at what pace since President Donald Trump abruptly announced the US would leave last month.

Syrian government delegates have been engaging in talks with Kurdish leaders over the course of the multi-year war, and Washington's pull-out could encourage the Kurds to finally agree to a compromise with Damascus, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be vulnerable to a Turkish assault in northern Syria following a U.S. withdrawal.

Representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a military coalition dominated by Kurdish fighters, declined to comment Friday, suggesting instead that the US military should explain its plans.

The U.S. -backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and have been fighting alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State militants in northeastern Turkey.

'Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements, ' he said.

There are some 2,000 USA troops stationed across northeastern Syria.

This is a developing story.

The announcement that USA troops would leave the civil war-racked country - where they have been deployed to assist in the multinational fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group - shocked global partners and American politicians alike.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles and some trucks pulled out from the north-eastern town of Rmeilan on Thursday night and crossed the border into Iraq.

Earlier this week, the US national security adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slowdown in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group.

The statement appeared to contradict John Bolton, President Trump's national security advisor, who said on Monday that...

Questions have swirled around the withdrawal order since Trump made the unexpected announcement last month. Ankara views U.S. Kurdish allies the YPG in Syria as one and the same with the PKK, a group that has waged a 34-year insurgency against Turkey. "Obviously when there is a political solution, we will withdraw", he said without elaborating. On Thursday, Pompeo declared that the U.S.is a "force for good" in the Middle East.

A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the US beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision".

But after the resignations of Mattis and McGurk and amid a wave of bipartisan criticism in Washington, Trump hinted at a longer timeframe. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the US pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence.

Bolton's comments angered Erdogan, who abruptly canceled a planned meeting earlier this week.

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