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US-Led Coalition Says Syria Withdrawal Has Begun

A U.S. soldier sits on an armored vehicle on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, April 4, 2018. File photo

A U.S. military spokesman says the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from the country.

The spokesman, Colonel Sean Ryan, said in a January 11 statement that "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" had begun, however he did not reveal specific details.

"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements," Ryan said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the U.S.-led coalition had started scaling down its presence at the Rmeilan airfield in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh.

It said the U.S. troops began to withdraw from the military base on January 10, describing the development as "the first such pullout of American forces" since President Donald Trump announced on December 19 that he intends to withdraw all of an estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Trumps announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stunned U.S. allies and has been criticized within his own administration.

Critics of Trump's decision have said that a precipitous withdrawal would shatter U.S. policy in Syria and allow IS to rebuild.

They have also argued that it would further allow Damascus ally Iran to extend its influence across Syria and potentially threaten Israel.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP