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Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

Led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

The U.S. -led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. military official said Friday, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.

The news that a withdrawal had begun was confirmed on Thursday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the United Kingdom, which monitors activity in the war-town country through a network of activists.

FILE - Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk on the rubble of damaged shops and buildings in the city of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 10, 2016.

Meanwhile, Turkey's defense minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday that his country is preparing for an "intense" attack across the Euphrates in Syria, as soon as the Americans withdraw.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus government, said on Friday it had the impression that the United States wanted to stay despite the announced withdrawal of US troops, RIA news agency reported.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan refused to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who earlier had appeared to set conditions on the U.S.withdrawal, including the lasting defeat of the Islamic State and guarantees that Turkey would not attack the YPG.

The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is underway and an unspecified number of additional US troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process. But that time frame has since been extended several times.

The Trump administration now says the withdrawal timeline is open-ended to provide time to arrange an agreement between Turkey and USA -backed Kurdish militia groups.

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"The execute order for Syria has been signed", a USA military spokesperson told AFP when asked about the withdrawal order, without providing further details.

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 4, 2018 file photo, a USA soldier, left, sits on an armored vehicle behind a sand barrier at a newly installed position near the front line between the U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council and the Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria.

But even as the SDF advance, there are growing concerns about their safety.

Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group. Turkish military has previously entered Syria in an apparent effort to drive Kurdish forces away from Turkey's borders.

Most US forces are concentrated in the northeast of Syria, but soldiers also maintain a base near southern Syria in an area known as al-Tanf, on the Iraqi border. "Our preparations are continuing intensively".

Ahmed spoke to The Associated Press Friday hours after an American official said the process of withdrawing American equipment from Syria has begun.

"What we're still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen", Bolton said. The result is a head-spinning sequence that has left both friends and foes confused and ensured that local tribal leaders will nearly certainly never trust the United States again, even if we have to go back into Syria to demolish more ISIS positions as they reconstitute.

Media reports on Thursday said a draft paper outlining U.S. plans for withdrawing from Syria included leaving troops in place at a position near the Iraqi and Jordanian border.