Equipment, not troops being moved out of Syria: Pentagon

The U.S. -led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria amid conflicting reports over the status of troops.

"That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment", the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the United States withdrawal plans.

Hours earlier, Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started.

A convoy of ten USA military vehicles was seen leaving a base in Hasakah province in northeast Syria and heading towards the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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. If there changes to that, such as leaving troops in eastern and southern Syria, Trump would have to approve those specific details, the official said.

She said that once she was asked for examining a terror group's member in Syria's Ras al-Ayn to understand whether she was pregnant or not and "when they found out that she was pregnant, they killed the woman".

The removal of the equipment in recent days was first reported by CNN, which quoted an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation as saying it signaled the beginning of USA withdrawal from the Middle Eastern country.

USA troops have begun withdrawing from Syria, compounding weeks of confusion over Donald Trump's policy in the Middle East and raising fears over the fate of America's Kurdish allies.

"We are sure that we are able to resolve a number of hard issues through a dialogue, and this is guaranteed as long as the dialogue is based on the principle of territorial integrity of Syria and the unity of its people", Soussan said at a press conference, adding that the dialogue between Damascus and Kurds continued, but further intensified against the background of possible offensive against Kurds by Turkey.

Pompeo and US national security adviser John Bolton have made similar assurances to the Kurds, which have been denounced by Erdogan and other Turkish officials. "That framework is conditions-based and will not subject troop withdrawal to an arbitrary timeline".

Turkey had rejected the USA claim that the Syrian Kurds were represented by the YPG, which Ankara sees as a terrorist organization.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey, and aims to crush its foothold in Syria.

"The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to Pompeo about the latest developments in Syria", said a brief statement from Turkey's foreign ministry.

USA 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 also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug", he said.

Turkey considers America's Kurdish allies of the YPG militia - who were vital in the ground war against ISIS - a terrorist group.

"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.

She added that the peace and stability of areas USA forces withdraw from "must be guaranteed", including by putting an end to the Turkish threats and fully eradicating the IS group and its sleeper cells.

At their meeting in Sochi on September 17, 2018, Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to create a demilitarized zone by October 15 in the province of Idlib, 15-20 km deep along the engagement line of the Syrian government troops and the armed opposition.

Vanessa Coleman

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