Pompeo confident of good outcome for Turkey and Kurds

US soldiers gather for a brief during a combined joint patrol rehearsal in Manbij Syria

US soldiers gather for a brief during a combined joint patrol rehearsal in Manbij Syria

Pompeo said Friday that Washington recognized "the Turkish people's right and Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

Mr Bolton was on a visit to Ankara to seek guarantees over the Kurdish fighters, but President Erdogan declined to meet him.

USA forces have "begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the US -led coalition against the Islamic State said. Turkey, however, considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to a rebellion in Turkey.

The withdrawal follows the drawdown ordered by President Donald Trump after he proclaimed the defeat of ISIS in a tweet December 19.

The announcement of a pullout is fueling concern about how quickly the USA will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by Trump administration officials on an exit timetable. Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements", military spokesman Sean Ryan said in a statement.

The top US diplomat said he was "optimistic" that Kurds who fought alongside USA forces against the Islamic State group in Syria are not threatened by pledges from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch military operations against what he terms Kurdish "terrorists".

About 2,000 U.S. military personnel are reported to be deployed in northern Syria.

Later, a US defence official said no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out.

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"We are confident we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those", Pompeo told journalists in Abu Dhabi. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 American troops is expected to depart even as the White House says it will keep up the pressure on ISIS.

Earlier this week, however, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the USA would expect guarantees that the Kurds would be protected after American troops leave the area.

Mr Trump also said that Russia, Iran and Syria had been the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. action in Syria and it was time to bring American soldiers home.

There are about 2,000 US troops in Syria.

"What we're still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen", Bolton said.

Turkey, however, regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists.

Mr Pompeo said yesterday that the speech had not taken aim at individuals but rather the ideas of the previous administration, adding that the Obama-era policies opened the way for Islamic State and the spread of Iran's influence in the region.

US airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

Turkey's president wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Trump "made the right call".

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