US 'optimistic' on deal to protect Kurds

US 'optimistic' on deal to protect Kurds

Defense officials in the Pentagon told The Wall Street Journal they haven't received any new directives, and until they do, will move forward with the original withdrawal plans.

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 U.S. withdrawal plans.

The U.S. -led military coalition has begun withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. defense official confirmed Friday. -Turkish consultations as part of the "deliberate and coordinated" withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

Israeli officials have expressed worries that the pullout could give Iran greater leeway to entrench itself militarily in Syria.

Foreign allies, including the Kurdish-led force that has spearheaded Washington's fight against the Islamic State, say they had not received warning about the withdrawal announcement, and administration officials initially offered differing timetables for its completion.

The phone call came during Pompeo's nine-nation tour of the Middle East, which is aimed at reassuring allies following U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal decision from Syria.

The distinctive feature of the US military campaign in Syria is its partnership with the Kurds and Arabs who were willing to act as American proxies by fighting the Islamic State group without USA troops having to take the lead combat role. But that time frame has since been extended several times.

Earlier this week, Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until the IS group is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signalling a slowdown in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal. "That framework is conditions-based and will not subject troop withdrawal to an arbitrary timeline".

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Residents near border crossings that are typically used by USA forces going in and out of Syria from Iraq said they had seen no obvious or large-scale movement of USA ground forces on Friday.

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

Kurdish People's Protection Units, as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker's Party which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

"The Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests", said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the US-backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeastern Syria.

The battle against die-hard jihadists in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely.

"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. "Our preparations are continuing intensively". "We're hoping those discussions, which will continue next week, will produce results that are acceptable on both sides".

Washington, however, considers the group as an effective force in the fight against IS.

After speaking to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Pompeo said an agreement was a work in progress but can be achieved in a way that allows the Turks to defend their country while leaving alone Kurds who do not pose a threat.

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