Led coalition has started Syria withdrawal

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

"CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said in a statement, using the acronym for the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. It said a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

Mr Trump's shock announcement on December 19 that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria alarmed U.S. allies and prompted the resignation of his defence secretary Jim Mattis. In recent days Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured the Middle East, reassuring allies of the U.S.'s regional commitments.

The CNN report added that officials it had previously spoken to said the Pentagon wants to signal to the president it is working towards his goals following his withdrawal decision last month.

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

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Addressing concerns that the United States withdrawal would allow Iranian and Iran-backed forces to remain in Syria and fulfill Tehran's ambition of establishing a strategically important land bridge to the Mediterranean, Mr Pompeo said the USA "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from the country.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

Speaking to Newsweek, a senior Defense Department source pinpointed one area of current withdrawal activity, at a strategic airstrip on Syria's northeastern border with Iraq.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the US -led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the U.S after pressure from its allies.

Pompeo suggested on Monday that Erdogan and Trump had a firm agreement about the Kurds, telling CNBC that "the Turks would ensure that the folks that we'd fought with, that had assisted us in the counter-ISIS campaign would be protected".

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The US president concluded: "Our troops are coming home!"

The military would not give any detail of the overall timetable for the American withdrawal nor which positions U.S. troops had begun pulling back from. The latter will no doubt prove the more hard objective to meet.

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

"If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey's NTV television on Thursday.

And numerous Trump administration's decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

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