U.S. begins withdrawing gear from Syria
Updated 17:01, 14-Jan-2019
The U.S. military has begun moving non-essential gear out of Syria but is not withdrawing troops for now, defense officials said days after President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton announced Sunday that a withdrawal appeared to be delayed indefinitely.
According to the U.S. defense officials, the withdrawal was only of certain types of gear, and not troops. "We are not withdrawing troops at this stage," one U.S. defense official said.
A second U.S. defense official then said that the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal. "That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment," but no troops had been withdrawn, the official added.
Late Friday, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said that Operation Inherent Resolve "is implementing the orderly withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria within a framework coordinated across the U.S. government."
The withdrawal, Robertson said, "is based on operational conditions on the ground, including conversation with our allies and partners, and is not be subject to an arbitrary timeline."
He added: "For purposes of operational security, we will not discuss specific troop movements or timelines. However, we will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date. The mission has not changed."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the northeastern province of Hasakeh. 
"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hasakeh province," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organization, said. 
"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the U.S. president's announcement" of a full troop withdrawal from Syria last month, he said. 
On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000. 
His announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was criticized even within his own camp and is already having major repercussions on the nearly eight-year-old conflict.
(Cover: A U.S military vehicle travels in the town of Amuda, northern Syria. /Reuters)
Source(s): AFP