Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it hits Kurds

30 2018 shows a convoy of US military vehicles driving through Syria's northern city of Manbij | AFP

United States officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that equipment was being moved out of Syria, a sign that despite mixed messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was proceeding apace.

But, he added, "we also know that those fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

He said: "Terrorists can't be your partners and allies".

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

US President Donald Trump tweeted that Washington is beginning its pullout of US troops from Syria.

Senior US officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

Efforts to destroy IS in Syria have been dominated by the Syrian Democratic Forces, whose members are mostly Kurds.

"Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey".


Washington, however, considers the group as an effective force in the fight against IS.

USA national security adviser John Bolton suggested last week that protection for Washington's Kurdish allies would be a precondition of the US withdrawal. That drew a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments "a serious mistake".

Their exit has not just alarmed the nation's Kurds, but even Christians in the country are afraid of what could happen after the USA troops leave, says Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria and a US representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US -backed Kurdish group.

He said the USA envoy for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, had travelled to northeast Syria this week and would soon go to Ankara for talks, including on moving forward a UN-led political process to end the eight-year long conflict in Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now in the Saudi capital Riyadh as he tours the Middle East to reassure US allies in the region.

"We recognize the Turkish people's right and President Erdogan's to defend their country from terrorists", Pompeo said Saturday, according to NPR's Michele Kelemen, who is traveling with the secretary.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the latest tunnel originated from the Lebanese border town of Ramyeh, was 55 meters deep and ran 800 meters inside Lebanese territory and also "dozens" of meters into Israel.

Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

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