US withdrawing gear from Syria, but not troops


President Donald Trump's promised withdrawal of American troops from Syria has begun, the US-led coalition against ISIS announced on Friday.

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.

The decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the USA forces are stationed.

The official said the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls the start of a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where about 2,000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

The coalition has started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the USA -led anti-Islamic State coalition, wrote in an email.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, he declined to discuss specific timelines or locations or troops movements out of concern for operational security.

In addition, a USA official this week said American forces won't be withdrawing from the al-Tanf military base in southern Syria at this time.

This is a developing story.

It said a convoy of about ten armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.

Robertson said the American troops and their allies "continue to pursue ISIS in the last remaining space they now influence".

More news: FBI opened probe into whether Trump working for Russians: Report - International

Zakharova said Moscow has not seen public statements laying out the USA strategy in Syria and so can not be sure that the serious about leaving.

In Cairo on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that although Trump has chose to bring troops home, he will keep up the fight against the IS group more broadly.

"We have taken a number of logistical measures to support an ordered withdrawal", Commander Sean Robertson, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.

Pompeo's remarks in Cairo also appeared to contradict Trump's announcement, drawing immediate criticism from Middle East experts as well as officials who served under former U.S. president Barack Obama. Once the troops are gone, the US will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the IS group a lasting defeat.

Russian Federation is mediating talks between the Syrian government and the Kurds to ensure a smooth transition when US troops leave the region.

US troops are still working with a partner known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to stamp out the last IS holdouts in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border.

"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations", Akar told the Turkish troops.

"Obviously when there is a political solution, we will withdraw", he said without elaborating.

Karam reported from Beirut.