The U..S has started withdrawing troops from Syria on Friday, The New York Times reported, despite the Trump administration saying as recently as this week that they planned to handle it totally differently.
The U.S.-led, 79-nation coalition against ISIS has now begun “our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” The Times cited Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the alliance, as saying.
He did not provide any more information about “specific timelines, locations or troop movements,” The Times said. Business Insider has contacted the Department of Defense and the State Department for comment.
The news comes after weeks of chaotic mixed messages, which began when President Donald Trump announced his plan to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria on December 19.
He said, inaccurately, that it was because ISIS had been “defeated.”
President Donald Trump, seen during a trip to Iraq last month, announced his plan to pull the 2,000 troops out of Syria on December 19(Associated Press/Andrew Harnik)
The president said he wanted the troops out in 30 days, but later rowed back his comments. His administration later lengthened the timeline for withdrawal.
The U.S. was hoping that Turkey would remain in Syria to fight the remnants of ISIS, which is not totally defeated, either in Syria or elsewhere.
That plan hit a snag earlier this week when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly insulted US National Security Advisor John Bolton, and said he would not play ball with the US plan.
Washington wanted assurances that Turkey would not attack Kurdish militants — alongside whom the US had been fighting, but whom Turkey considers terrorists — after the U.S. leaves.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the U.S. 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.”
The decision to withdraw from Syria has been controversial even within the U.S. government.
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