US starts withdrawing supplies, but not troops, from Syria

Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds even if US doesn't withdraw FM

"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.

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he said.

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.

On Sunday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said American troops would not leave northeastern Syria until ISIS is defeated and the American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected.

He said such statements were "unacceptable".

Bolton and Pompeo may have tried to add nuance where Trump intended there to be none.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed the comments, calling them a "serious mistake".

Turkey insists its military actions are aimed at Kurdish fighters in Syria - the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, or YPG - whom it regards as terrorists, and not against the Kurdish people. The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK.

"The withdrawal 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 said.

Mr Pompeo really wants to turn the focus to countering Iran.

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On Sunday, Pompeo was in Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional archrival, where he is expected to call for increasing pressure on Tehran and promote a US -backed initiative to form what some have termed an "Arab NATO" that would bring the region together in a military alliance to counter threats from Iran.

But outrage over the Saudi murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi has complicated the relationship.

"We had this conversation, many details still to be worked out but I am optimistic we can achieve a good outcome", Pompeo said of his call with Cavusoglu from Abu Dhabi, where he was on the fourth leg of a nine-nation Mideast trip.

Mr Trump initially signalled a rapid withdrawal from Syria and USA officials said they expected troops to be out with 30 days.

In 2014, militants overran 100,000 sq km (39,000 sq miles) of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and imposed their brutal rule on nearly 8 million people. A USA defence department report estimated in August that there might be as many as 14,000 jihadists left in Syria and 17,000 in Iraq.

Trump's abrupt decision in December to pull them, declaring in a tweet the defeat of ISIS, sent shockwaves across the region and led to the resignation of U.S. Defence Minister James Mattis and the top U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

Iran hosted tens of thousands of Polish war refugees who were brought to the country after surviving work camps in the Soviet Union and before they migrated to then-emerging Israel, New Zealand and some African countries.

What is the U.S. presence in Syria?

United States defence officials quickly sought to clarify the remark, stressing that the withdrawal was only of certain types of gear, and not troops.

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