- The US has started withdrawing troops from Syria, the Department of Defense said Friday.
- The US-led coalition against the Islamic State has “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” a spokesman said.
- President Donald Trump first said on December 19 that he wanted to quickly pull troops out of Syria.
- His abrupt announcement preceded a flurry of mixed messages over the extent of a US withdrawal, which troops would leave, and when.
The US on Friday said it had started withdrawing troops from Syria, despite the Trump administration saying as recently as this week that it planned to handle the withdrawal much differently.
The US-led, 79-nation coalition against the Islamic State terrorist group has begun its “deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the alliance, said in a statement cited by Reuters and The New York Times.
“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations, or troop movements,” he added, according to Reuters. INSIDER has contacted the Department of Defense for comment.
The news comes after weeks of chaotic mixed messages, which began with President Donald Trump’s December 19 announcement that the US would move quickly to pull its 2,000 troops in Syria out of the country.
In making the announcement, Trump claimed victory against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which holds only a fraction of the territory it once did but has not been eliminated.
The president originally said he wanted the troops out in 30 days but later rowed back his comments. His administration later lengthened the timeline for withdrawal.
The US was hoping that Turkey would help fight the remnants of ISIS in Syria.
That plan hit a snag earlier this week when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly insulted the US national security adviser, John Bolton, and said he would not play ball with the US’s plan.
Washington wanted assurances that Turkey would not attack Kurdish militants in Syria – whom the US had been fighting with but whom Turkey considers terrorists – after the US departure.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the US would carry out with its withdrawal plans despite Erdogan and Bolton’s disagreement, Reuters reported.
Unnamed defense officials also told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday: “Nothing has changed. We don’t take orders from Bolton.”
Trump’s announcement of a hasty, apparently unconditional withdrawal from Syria was met with opposition even from high-level US officials.