American forces deployed in Syria have begun withdrawing from the war-torn country, an American military spokesman said Friday.
In December, President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that the US would withdraw the roughly 2,000 soldiers it currently has deployed in Syria.
The president initially called for a 30-day timeframe to complete the pullout, but after meeting with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Trump agreed to delay completion of the withdrawal.
While no formal time-table for the pullout has been released, President Trump reportedly agreed to spread the pullout over four months.
On Friday, Colonel Sean J. Ryan, a spokesman for the US deployment in Syria, known as Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), said that the US-led coalition forces had already begun pulling out.
The US, Ryan said, “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.”
On Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said during a visit to Jerusalem that the US may retain a presence at an enclave centered on the Al-Tanf airbase in southeast Syria even after the pullout.
Bolton also said the US would “condition” the pullout from Syria on specific objectives, including assurances that Kurdish forces in the north will be protected once Turkey takes control of northern Syria.
“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said, according to NBC.
“This is a cause and effect mission,” Bolton added, telling reporters that the pullout was dependent on certain conditions, chief among them guarantees from Turkey that Kurdish militias in Syria would be protected.