Pompeo confident of US deal with Turkey to protect Kurds

Lamar Ellis
January 14, 2019

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

Over the intervening years the number of United States 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. He said military preparations were ongoing.

The Journal reported that to account for shifts in plans, the military is staging personnel and equipment needed for a possible withdrawal, rather than move American forces out.

But Bolton said Friday during a radio interview that talks are ongoing between the US military and Turkey regarding the Kurdish forces that have battled IS.

Why is the U.S. withdrawing from Syria?

The official says the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where about 2000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton this week suggested America's withdrawal was contingent on assurances from Turkey it would not attack. The comments drew a rebuke from Erdogan, who slammed them as a "serious mistake".

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.

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Last December, Trump announced plans to withdraw all USA troops from Syria, claiming that American forces had defeated Daesh there. On Thursday, Turkey's foreign minister said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already made the decision to launch an offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria, and that it would go ahead regardless of the presence of American forces.

Pompeo also sought to reassure Washington's Kurdish allies in the fight against IS, who fear the departure of American troops would allow Turkey to attack them.

The Kurdish groups that control the north have turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north. Using his typical mode of communication to reaffirm the withdrawal of American troops from the ground, the United States president warned Ankara against seeing this as an opportunity to stage any military campaign against Syrian Kurds.

The Pentagon first gave word of the start of the withdrawal late Thursday.

The Assad regime said it was pleased with the development.

Turkey regards the Kurd-dominated YPG units as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

Turkey had reacted angrily to suggestions that Trump's plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by the Turkish government as terrorists.

The US-led coalition on Saturday fired over 20 missiles against jihadist positions, the Observatory said. But that time frame has since been extended several times.

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