"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the USA president's announcement" of a full troop withdrawal from Syria last month, he said. Once the troops are gone, the USA will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the [ISIS] group a lasting defeat.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been publicly announced.
Hours earlier, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US -led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started. Washington, however, said that it would not disclose a timeline for withdrawing its troops, and pledged that the US-led global coalition's fight against terrorism would continue.
President Donald Trump warned Turkey not to attack Kurdish forces in Syria after a planned US pullout, saying the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally would be economically devastated if it did so. But the peace and stability of areas US forces withdraw from "must be guaranteed", she added.
A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the US beginning its withdraw process, describing it as "America's decision". This, she said, includes putting an end to the Turkish threats and fully eradicating the Islamic State group and its sleeper cells.
Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus regime, said it had the impression that the United States wanted to stay despite the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops, RIA news agency reported.
The military is carrying out the withdrawal under an order signed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis just before he left office December 31.
Bolton, on a visit to the region this week, said the US pullout was conditional on defeating IS and guarantees that the Kurds would be protected.
In fact, Pompeo went further, and in his address from the American University in Cairo on Thursday, said the United States would make very sure the Islamic State terrorist group was defeated, and that "every last Iranian boot" was out of Syria before leaving the area.
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Other countries have concerns too: It has been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand. The Chinese foreign ministry said it was "greatly concerned" by the reports , and urged Poland to handle the case "justly".
"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected", Pompeo said of the Kurds while visiting Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, after talks in Baghdad.
Troops may not be coming home from Syria yet, but some equipment is.
After initially tweeting about the decision to bring back USA troops "now", Trump this week said "we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!"
Opponents of the move claim that the pullout will allow Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime to expand their influence in the region.
Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the United States withdrawal plans.
The People's Protection Units (YPG), which have spearheaded ground operations against ISIS in Syria, are an offshoot of the Kurdish PKK, which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Since his surprise announcement last month, Trump has stressed any withdrawal would be coordinated, gradual and "prudent".
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that territory previously controlled by the United States should be transferred to the Syrian government."In this regard, establishing dialog between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance".
"I can not share your confidence that they are leaving there because we never saw an official strategy", she added.