Turkey Hails Pompeo Comments Over Defense Against 'Terrorists'

Cavusoglu said Washington chose to withdraw its troops from Syria after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's firm stance against removing threat coming to Turkey from east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

The official says the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, where about 2000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

Pompeo's remarks follow tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over the fate of Washington's allies in the fight against ISIS.

President Donald Trump confirmed a Syria withdrawal Sunday, but shifted slightly on the timing, saying "we won't be finally pulled out until [the Islamic State] is gone".

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.

There are 2,000 American troops in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the notheastern province of Hasakeh.

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.

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The Gulf emirate is his latest stop in a regional tour aimed at reassuring allies after a Trump's shock announcement in December that United States troops would be withdrawn from Syria. Russia, the Syrian government's most vital ally, would be happy to see the us pull out entirely of the war-torn country, where it has military bases and a significant troop presence. These include troops to provide extra security for those who are preparing to leave.

Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton had a tense meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara this week.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

The YPG fights under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

But, he added, "we also know that those fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

On a visit to Turkish troops stationed near the Syrian border Friday, Turkey's defence minister, Hulusi Akar, reiterated that Ankara is "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and said military preparations were ongoing.

PKK is a Kurdish underground operating inside Turkey, YPG is a defensive army in Syria, and the Turks are not interested in these distinctions.

After announcing the pullout, Trump tweeted that Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan "has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of (the Islamic State) in Syria", adding that the Turkish strongman was "a man who can do it".

  • Sonia Alvarado