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US pullback from northeast Syria does not imply total pullout — administration

"Removal of the 50 to 100 U.S. soldiers from the safety zone where the Turks may incur is not the beginning of a formal pullout of Syria," the official said

WASHINGTON, October 8. /TASS/. The withdrawal of US troops from the zone of the Turkish operation in northeastern Syria does not mean that the US had started the complete pullout of its forces from the country, a senior US administration official told reporters.

"Removal of the 50 to 100 U.S. soldiers from the safety zone where the Turks may incur is not the beginning of a formal pullout of Syria," the official said.

"The President has said this on numerous occasions, and the American people want American troops as soon as possible. And that remains our ultimate goal, is to get American troops from the Middle East and to let the parties in the region determine their own future," the official continued. "But this is not the time for any such move right now. We're moving 50 troops within Syria."

Commenting on media reports that the announcement came as a surprise to the Department of Defense and other key government agencies, the official said the leadership of those governmental bodies was informed about the plans.

"I don’t know who would be blindsided at the Pentagon. That surprises me that anyone would say that because this is something that was, you know, discussed among senior leadership here at the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Do I don't know how anyone could have been blindsided," the senior administration official said, answering to a reporter’s question. "So I don't know how to respond to that. That's just a surprising question."

The official said Trump discussed the planned Turkish military operation and the redeployment of US forces "with his senior advisors in the defense, diplomatic, and folks here and staff here at the White House."

He suggested that possibly someone in the US administration was not informed about the move, because not all officials may have had the need to have this knowledge for national security reasons.

"And so sometimes people that don’t have a need to know or that aren’t part of the decision chain may be a little disappointed because they weren’t part of it, and may call up friends in the press and tell them that they're blindsided or that they should have been involved," the official said.


Turkish operation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on October 1 that Ankara intended to act on its own to set up a safety zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria, because it failed to attain the intended goals in the course of phone consultations with the US side. On October 6, Erdogan held a phone conversation with Trump, during which the US side said it would not join the planned Turkish military operation in Syria or support it in any way, while US servicemen will be withdrawn from the immediate area of it.

On Monday, the United States, who sided with the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia), started withdrawing their personnel and military hardware from their bases in Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad. The Kurdish side described the move as a breach of guarantees earlier given by Washington to the Kurdish population, and warned that the threat of the Islamic State may grow after the US-led coalition leaves Syria.