Jan 11, 2019, 12:40 PM ET

US military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria

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The U.S. military began moving military equipment out of Syria this week, but no U.S. troops have left, two U.S. officials said Friday. Other officials said there is still no timeline for the pullout of the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria following President Donald Trump's surprise decision to withdraw them last month.

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Earlier on Friday, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad had issued a statement that the U.S. military had "begun the process" of a deliberate withdrawal from Syria.

Two U.S. officials told ABC News that only equipment has been moved out of Syria and that no American troops have left Syria. One of them told ABC News that in recent days military equipment has been moved out of Syria into Iraq.

The official added, "We have made a number of preparations for the deliberate withdrawal from Syria including planning for personnel and equipment moves, preparing facilities for retrograde and moving materials out of Syria." The official said the limited movement of cargo out of Syria was being carried out as the opportunity presented itself "or as part of pre-planned movements.”

“CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," said Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition had said in an earlier statement released Friday. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements.”

The withdrawal of equipment came amid conflicting statements over when a withdrawal of American troops would begin and at what pace since President Donald Trump abruptly announced the U.S. would leave last month.

PHOTO: U.S. forces vehicles and structures are seen on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Dec. 26, 2018.Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. forces' vehicles and structures are seen on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Dec. 26, 2018.

In late December, former Defense Secretary James Mattis signed orders for the military to follow Trump's pullout announcement. It was that decision, as well as the president’s decision to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, that led Mattis to resign.

But U.S. officials say there are no timelines attached to that order as the U.S. military continues developing the timing of that withdrawal plan.

According to one of those officials, the orders signed by Mattis can be adjusted to include timelines as decided by the White House. So far, there has been no such policy decision.

Military planners have developed plans that could take as long as four months for the U.S. to pull out all of the troops and equipment inside Syria. That timeline took into account that the U.S. had accumulated a lot of heavy equipment inside Syria that would have to be removed. But U.S. officials stressed that no decisions had been made about the pace of withdrawal.

Officials have said that a withdrawal of equipment could lead to the temporary deployment of additional forces specifically tasked with equipment removal from Syria as well as the security of those troops.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that 10 armored vehicles, in addition to engineering machines, withdrew Thursday evening from the U.S. base in al-Remelan in the al-Hasaka province in northeastern Syria.

A U.S. official said the withdrawal of equipment without its being replaced would constitute part of the withdrawal.

Earlier this week, National Security Advisor John Bolton indicated that the pullout of U.S. troops could take much longer. During a visit to Israel, he said a Syria pullout would be pegged to the total defeat of ISIS and assurances from Turkey that it would not attack America's Kurdish allies in Syria after a troop withdrawal.

Turkish President Recip Erdogan later labeled that characterization as a "serious mistake.”

He also laid out a tougher line, saying there would be “no concessions” and that the new plan contradicted the “clear agreement” he had with Trump for a U.S. pullout from Syria.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, gives a speech at the American University in Cairo, Jan. 10, 2019.Amr Nabil/AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, gives a speech at the American University in Cairo, Jan. 10, 2019.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back strongly that Bolton and Erdogan's comments contradicted each other.

"There’s no contradiction whatsoever," said Pompeo. This is a story made up by the media."

Pompeo added that while Trump had decided to withdraw troops from Syria, the U.S. commitment to defeat ISIS would continue.

"We’re going to do it in a way, in one particular place, Syria, and differently," said Pompeo.

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  • owthathurts

    Here comes another Putin/Bin Salmon high-five!

  • thelynx

    Good. Obama blew it in Syria when he had ample opportunity to make an impact and it's simply too late now. Syria was once a highly advanced country. The Syrian people are a good people. We blew it and now they're a shattered shell with the Russians at the door. We are what we abhor.

  • Prophet With Honor

    I believe we are stalling, but I can't figure out which of many possible reasons might be behind it.

  • Harry Gaffney III

    Trump obviously made a deal with Erdogan, caving to blackmail on Khashoggi, and now the Pentagon is stuck with it, or they could arrest Trump the traitor. What happened to ISIS? We didn't "beat them" they're still there.

    It's all part of the continual Trump fraud. He's Putin's puppet. But the Russian trolls will try to make it out that Liberals are war mongers because they won't hand the world to Putin. It's that basic. It's trolling.

  • Jim J.

    Democrats, liberals, progressives and lefties love endless war, the bloated military and flushing tax dollars down the M-I-C toilet, ...now.

    We MUST have troops and WAR there because....HUMANITY!

  • SJC

    tRump did this for Putin, he is owned by Russia.

  • bobhope01

    One should reflect on how we got mired here. Firstly, the lie of globally catastrophic consequences. Wmd in iraq? Secondly, the thoroughly debunked claim that gaddafis troops were mass murdering/or intended to , civilians. This used to propagandize the public to legitimize the removal of Gaddafi. Another remarkably catastrophic decision. So a history of monumental deceit lead to this, none of which has been good for the USA. So I say get out.

  • John Springer

    Good move withdrawing from Syria. Our support of rebels in Syria upset Middle East even further after our unnecessary involvement in Iraq, Libya, and our backstabbing Mubarak in Egypt. If we keep meddling , we are only seen as bullies and others lining up in partnership to offset us. same with our silly sanctions. They accomplish little.

  • Jim J.

    I agree with the plan.

  • SFprogressive

    Well, looks like John Bolton is the next in a long series of specialsts who were totally ignored, John, do yourself and your reputation a favor before you are made to look more foolish: resign,
    And this move done in a totally chaotic and unplanned way makes the US look weak and unreliable. We'll pay for this down the road. Don thinks our international commitments are the equivalent of selling taco bowls.

  • OtherMrNiceGuy

    So the US farewell to the people in Syria fighting a murderous regime backed up by Russia and Iran is, essentially: "Smell you later!"?

    Yet there is no planned drawdown in Afghanistan?!

  • William Rose

    Putin is thrilled. Bonus check for Trump next week.

  • JonnyDeuce

    Putin is happy. His puppet gave him what he wanted!

  • inonepeice

    "There’s no contradiction whatsoever," said Pompeo. This is a story made up by the media."

    ++++++++++++++
    These are the same people who tell you that the truth isn't the truth...

  • just saying

    they pack and unpack then pack again.

  • OtherMrNiceGuy

    No offense, America is the stupidest smart country in the world.

  • Rubber Banned

    Trump went to the G20 and was instructed by Putin to leave Syria so that's what he's doing.

  • 40acre

    So Trump (and Pompeo) have said they will continue to fight ISIS from Iraq....but Iraq has said they want us out. What now, Donald?

  • Alex Ross

    Trump today is STILL the LEAST popular president during this phase of a presidency. By a LOT.

  • Prophet With Honor

    I didn't like going in to begin with, getting out without making the situation worse will be tricky.

  • NewsJunkie12

    This clown has to go now. I'm reminded of a late night infomercial hawking gold coins as an "investment opportunity" that actually fits this situation to a T. It's time to remove this man from office before he causes too much damage to recover from anytime soon, so don't buy cold coins but do...

    "act now to avoid disappointment and future regret"

  • Eagle1000

    Anything for Wall?

  • Pro-Marx

    The US continues its pattern of interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation (be it in the Middle East or Central America), destabilizing the region, and then withdrawing abruptly, further destabilizing the region. We should stop embarking on these ill-advised ventures, but given the reality of the ones we are already involved in, we should remain there until the region is more stable.

  • Starderup

    "There’s no contradiction whatsoever," said Pompeo. This is a story made up by the media."

    Good to know Pompeo has not forgotten to assault the media (except Fox of course). The repetition works on the weak minded. This is what Russia does. They pound the party line in every chance they get. Sooner or later, those lacking critical thinking skills just accept it as fact.
    The other new Putin talking point is 'crisis'. The number of immigrants trying to enter the U.S. has dropped in recent years, yet it is now a crisis according to the Russian administration in our White House. They will use that word over and over, until it loses its meaning.

  • poultrygeist

    Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay...

  • Littlethugtrump

    Trump is quite similar to Obama in Iraq.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    The surprise move comes amid conflicting statements over when a withdrawal would begin"

    Conflicting? With Trump this is the norm and no one is in charge. Confused is more appropriate as the man who knows more than the generals is already helping the ISIS cause.

  • Nearl56 12

    Trump’s typical shoot first ask my people to cover for me later approach , yet again.

    And hide that you have no policy by bashing the last guy.

    Nobody believes Pompeo, because Trump will contradict him the next day.

  • Hank R

    I agree. We never should have been there in the first place. When did Congress authorize it? They did not meaning our forces were there unconstitutionally.

  • Alex Ross

    Trump Shut-down, Trump Obstruction, Trump Looming Recession, and Trump's ISIS.

    All for a buck and some bigots.

    Worst lying, fake president ever.