The first US troops have begun to leave Syria. The Pentagon is providing few details, however, except to say the US-led coalition had "begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal." Coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan declined to provide numbers or timetables regarding the approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. The New York Times characterizes the development as a surprise given that national security adviser John Bolton had recently reassured allies that President Trump's unexpected decision to pull US troops would be implemented slowly.
Allies including the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces appeared to be caught off guard by the start of the withdrawal, reports the Washington Post. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that troops were leaving an airfield in the northeastern province of Hasakah, reports AFP. In making the initial decision, Trump argued that US troops had completed their mission of eliminating ISIS from Syria. The plan, and that assertion, ran into immediate friction at home and abroad. (Secretary of State Pompeo blamed Obama policies for the success of ISIS.)